Santa saves three men, and “Doubting” shows the way…

The REAL Saint Nicholas, in the process of saving “three innocents from death…”

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

As noted this time last year, “Christmas is only a few days away.  But first comes the Feast day of Thomas the Apostle, on December 21.  And Thomas – in [a] way – serves as a metaphor for all us ‘Doubters.'”  See On “Saint Doubting Thomas” – 2017.  From December 22, 2017.

That Feast day came after last December 6 – about a week ago – which was the Feast day for the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  See There really IS a “Saint Nick” (Virginia), from December 9, 2017.  But first another “but first:”  Not only did I just publish a new E-book, there’s now a paperback version.  It’s available from Lulu.com(Under the Shop link, and under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”)

Which is another way of saying that last Thursday, December 6, was the Feast day for Nicholas of Myra, in the Daily Office lectionary.  Then the upcoming Friday, December 21, is the Feast day for St. Thomas, Apostle(And of course the 12 Days of Christmas are coming up as well.) 

Which brings us back to last year’s posts from about this time:

Wednesday, December 6 [in 2017], was the Feast day for the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  He was Saint Nicholas of Myra, and he lived from 270 to 340 A.D.  So when Dr. Philip O’Hanlon told his daughter, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” he was telling the truth…  Or at least the truth as that term is defined in today’s politics.

Location of Demre in Antalya province, Turkey.You can see more about this prototype in There really IS a “Saint Nick.”  That Real St. Nicholas saved three innocent men – shown in the painting at the top of the page – who’d been wrongly sentenced to death by a corrupt official.  That corrupt ruler of Myra – today’s DemreTurkey – accepted bribes to sentence the men to death.  But this first St. Nick was not to be intimidated by the “power of others, especially the power of the corrupt.”  He “stormed into the prefect’s office and demanded that the charges against the three men be dropped:”

That corrupt official eventually “confessed his sin and sought the saint’s forgiveness.  Nicholas absolved him, but only after the ruler had undergone a period of repentance.”  Which leads to this thought:  “Boy, we could sure use him today!!!

Other stories told of Nicholas of Myra’s “love for God and for his neighbor.”  Like providing dowries for three poor unmarried daughters.  (Thus saving them from a life of prostitution.)  Or of three children killed and “pickled” by a butcher – during a time of extreme famine – who planned “to sell them off as ham.”  But Nicholas of Myra both “’saw through the butcher’s horrific crime’ and resurrected the three children from the barrel.”

That brings us to the feast day for the “original Doubting Thomas,” a term which refers to a “skeptic who refuses to believe without direct personal experience.”  But as noted last year, that’s exactly what going to church and reading the Bible is supposed to provide:  An opportunity for a direct and personal experience with the Force that Created the Universe.  See also The Bible and mysticismwhich said Christianity is all about “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.”

So a mystic and a Christian both seek a “direct personal experience with God.:

In plain words there are two sides of the Christian experience:  The “corporate” or business side, and the “mystical” side.  The problem is that so many Christians get hung up on the “business side” of the Christian faith.  Mainly because it’s so much easier…  But it’s only the mystical side that can lead to a direct personal experience with God, and Thomas the Apostle is a reminder that – hard as that may be – it can be done….

So here’s wishing you a happy “real St. Nick” and “first Doubting Thomas” Day…

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Thomas the Apostle, as envisioned by El Greco (in about 1612…)

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The upper image is courtesy of Saint Nicholas – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption:  “Saint Nicholas Saves Three Innocents from Death (oil painting by Ilya Repin, 1888, State Russian Museum).”   See also St. Nicholas Center … Saint Who Stopped an Execution.

The lower image is courtesy of Apostle St Thomas by GRECO, El – wga.hu.  For more on Thomas and his missionary journeys, see Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

Announcing a new E-book…

The book cover:  “Jacob wrestling with the angel”  – God – and being “transformed…”

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Remember when Rick Santorum said “there’s No Such Thing As A Liberal Christian?”  There’s a new e-book out to challenge his claim.  Which is another way of saying I just published “No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian.”  (Subtitle: “And Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”)  Just check out the Amazon Kindle Store (Under the nom de plume, “James B. Ford.”)

Fesoj - Papilio machaon (by).jpgIn one sense it talks about being transformed.  As in, transformed by reading the Bible on a daily basis.  (And maybe faithfully reading this blog?)  In turn, the King James Bible Dictionary says that term means to “change the form of;  to change the shape or appearance;  to metamorphose;  as a caterpillar transformed into a butterfly.”

(To “metamorphose” means in pertinent part to “change into a different physical form especially by supernatural means.”)

But as the book notes, way too many way-too-conservative Christians don’t want to change.  They don’t like the idea of being “transformed,” as Jacob was.  They prefer staying “caterpillars,” Biblically speaking.  They’d rather stay in their cocoon of literalism.

You can get more juicy details at the Kindle Store site, by typing in the title’s key words.  There too you can read the 600-word “blurb.”  Also – for reference – the chapter titles are listed in the notes below.  For one example the book talks of the difference between Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ.”  That last post – from November 13 – became Chapter 27, the end of the book.  Other chapters include “The Bible’s erotic love song.”  (“From last year.”)

I figured that’d get people’s attention, but the chapter also asks questions like:  Why don’t Bible Literalists interpret the “Songs of Songs” literally?  Why don’t they adhere to the “exact letter or the literal sense” for this book, like all the others in the Bible?

To compare, some literalists are “snake handlers,” based on a literal translation of Mark 16:18: “They will pick up snakes with their hands.”  (Taken out of context, I’d say.)  But the “love song” chapter says,  “Be consistent.  If you’re going to interpret Mark 16:18 literally, do the same with Song of Solomon 7:1-3:  ‘Your rounded thighs are like jewels…  Your two breasts are like two fawns…’”

Moving on – and as noted in the e-book “blurb” – the book’s  title is a twist on Rick Santorum’s saying in 2008, “There’s no such thing as a liberal Christian.” (In a kind of “Bizarro” turnabout-is-fair-play.  Or some well-deserved “busting of conservative chops.”) 

But the journey that led to the book started four years ago.  It just ended, with a realization that there ARE conservative Christians  However, they both definitely short-change themselves and drive away converts “in droves.”  (With their narrow view of the Bible.  Then too, another conclusion the book came to was:  They’re more like “hang around the fort” Christians.*)

But the book – and this blog – gives potential Bible students a more challenging alternative to the “limited Army career options” offered up by conservative Christians.  (That’s a metaphor based on Paul’s saying in 2d Timothy 2:3,  “Join with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”) 

And in the U.S. Army for example, you do – at first – go to boot camp to “learn the fundamentals.”  But conservative Christians “never go beyond boot camp.”  They never go beyond the fundamentals.  They’d rather stay “career buck privates.”  (See Chapter 16.)

But as the book notes, a true Soldier of Christ WANTS to go beyond the “safety of the fort” – or the cocoon – and wrestle with God.  Of course God will win every ‘match,” but in the process YOU get stronger and stronger – spiritually – as discussed in Chapter 5.  (“On arguing with God,” which includes the idea that your Bible journey calls you “to vigor, not comfort.”)

In the meantime, since publishing the book I found what might be a better metaphor than arguing with God or “wrestling with God.”  Back in the 1970’s I had a book, The Inner Game of Tennis.  As I remember, one passage talked about how a good player should compete with a not-so-good player.  So the better metaphor could be “playing tennis with God.”

I’ll try to develop this theme later on, but the point is pretty simple.  When you “play tennis with God,” He plays you in a way that will help you develop.  He doesn’t just try to beat the tar out of you, to humiliate you, like so many “human” players do.  I put more thoughts on this in the  notes, but the point is that if you challenge God – if you “argue” with Him – you usually end up a stronger person for it.  (Though there will be “disasters” from which spiritual growth comes…)  

The bottom line?  We’re all Soldiers in the Army of Christ, conservative, liberal and moderate.  But we don’t all have to “hang around the fort.”  Some Christians choose the option for some “Advanced Individual Training” – like the U.S. Army – and go out beyond the fort.  AND have some adventure in their lives.  Or as Jesus promised in John 10:10 to live life “in abundance.”

That’s from the Afterword, which adds that the book “can get you started doing that.”

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“There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian”: and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible by [Ford, James B.]

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The upper image is courtesy of Jacob wrestling with the angel – Wikipedia.  See also On arguing with God and More on “arguing with God” – and St. Mark as Cinderella.

Re:  Santorum on liberal Christianity.  There’s some debate whether he actually said that about “liberal Christians,” but not that some conservative Christians truly believe it.  Some indeed have called liberal Christianity a “heresy,” notwithstanding the warning of Deuteronomy 19:16-19.  See for example The ‘Bizarro Rick Santorum’ says, which became Chapter 21.

Metamorphosis Re:  Butterflies and cocoons.  See also How caterpillars gruesomely transform into butterflies, at left.

The image below the “erotic love song” passage is courtesy of Song of Songs – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “‘Song of Songs’ (Cantique des Cantiques) by Gustave Moreau, 1893.”

Re:  “Hang around the fort” Christians.  As the book notes, I’ve used a number of metaphors to describe such too-conservative, too-literal followers-of-Jesus.  Boot camp Christians, carbon-copy Christians, career buck privates – Biblically speaking – and the like.  But after further review, the term “stick in the mud Christians” deserves further exploration.  For example, there’s a lady in my church choir who is conservative, and a Christian, but she does things like “shotgun” competitively and go to Las Vegas on a regular basis to play poker; also “competitively.”  And she drives a racy big-engine sports car, and for all that is definitely not a “stick in the mud” Christian.  See ‘Stick in the mud’ – the meaning and origin of this phrase, referring to a “narrow-minded or unprogressive person;  one who lacks initiative.”  The Free Dictionary said the term is based the idea of someone “content to remain in an abject condition.”  Or there’s the generic “person who is dull and unadventurous and who resists change.”  (Yup, that sounds about right…)

The full title to the “tennis” book:   The Inner Game of Tennis:  The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance.  As to the author, see Timothy Gallwey – Wikipedia:

The “inner game” is based upon certain principles in which an individual uses non-judgmental observations of critical variables, with the purpose of being accurate about these observations.  If the observations are accurate, the person’s body will adjust and correct automatically to achieve best performance.

Which sounds a bit like the blog-post On sin and cybernetics, which forms Chapter 6 in the book.

The lower image is courtesy of the Amazon.com Kindle Store

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I wrote the following after getting my copy of “Inner Game” from the local library.  The full chapter-title list comes below these “rough notes for possible future use:”

The easiest way – used by most “better players” – is just to beat the tar out of a lesser opponent.  But the worthier – more challenging – way is for the “better” to play just good enough to win.  In that way he challenges the lesser player, and forces his own “self” to stretch and become better.  His primary goal is still to win, but to win in such a way that both players grow.  (E.g., the lesser player feels good because he “hung in there” with a better player.)

So  today I went to the library and got the 2008 Random House paperback edition.  (“Foreward by Pete Carroll, head football coach, USC.”)  I found what I think was the remembered passage.  From page 121, Chapter 9 (The Meaning of Competition), it talked about the way that God – in my remembrance – gives you the chance to “find out to what heights [you] can rise.”  Then the author wrote about concluding that “true competition is identical with true cooperation:”

Each player tries his hardest to defeat the other, but in … true competition no person is defeated.  Both players benefit by their efforts [and] both grow stronger and each participates in the development of the other…  You tend to build confidence in your opponent…  Then at the end you shake hands with your opponent, and regardless of who won you thank him for the fight he put up, and you mean it.

So from God’s point of view, “He makes it more challenging for His opponent.”  God makes it more challenging for us when we argue with, wrestle with, or play tennis with Him, instead of just meekly accepting a narrow, limited version of how conservatives see the Bible.

So it seems to me that God wants us to “challenge Him,” to ask questions, to go beyond a mere literal acceptance of what somebody else has said the Bible means.  Like Buddha said:

Do not believe on the strength of traditions even if they have been held in honor for many generations. . .     Believe nothing which depends only on the authority of your masters or of priests.  After investigation, believe that which you yourself have tested and found reasonable, and which is good for your good and that of others.

But the Apostle Paul said pretty much the same thing in First Thessalonians 5:21: “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”   And First John 4:1, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God.”  And also Philippians 2:12, where Paul added, “Work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.”  (Borrowed from The Christian repertoire…)

I’m not sure how I got to quoting Buddha, but it’s from another e-book I’ll be publishing soon…

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The following is the list of Contents in the “NoCon” book, Chapters 1 through 27.  Also, a Preface and an Afterword.  For some practice using the search engine at the upper right of the main page, just type in the key words.  And as noted above, the last chapter – 27 – comes from the November 13, 2018 post, On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ:” 

Preface

Chapter 1:  “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other

Chapter 2:  Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000

Chapter 3:  On three suitors (a parable)

Chapter 4:  On Jesus: Liberal or Fundamentalist?

Chapter 5:  On “wrestling” with God

Chapter 6:  On sin and cybernetics

Chapter 7:  On reading the Bible

Chapter 8:  On the Bible and mysticism

Chapter 9:  The True Test of Faith

Chapter 10:  On singing a NEW song to God…

Chapter 11:  On WHY we’re getting “less Christian”

Chapter 12:  Was Moses the first to say, “It’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

Chapter 13:  “Bible basics” revisited

Chapter 14:  On Moses getting stoned…

Chapter 15:  My Lenten meditation…

Chapter 16:  Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”

Chapter 17:  On snake-handling “redux”

Chapter 18:  The latest from a “None…”

Chapter 19:  Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”

Chapter 20: On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down…”

Chapter 21:  The “Bizarro Rick Santorum” says…

Chapter 22:  “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian…’”

Chapter 23:  The Bible’s “erotic love song”

Chapter 24:  Jesus to His followers: “Don’t get TOO conservative!

Chapter 25:  Did Jesus interpret the Bible “liberally?”

Chapter 26:  Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

Chapter 27:  On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ”

On Garritroopers and REAL soldiers – in the “Army of Christ”

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(Here’s a news flash:  I just published a new e-book, “’There’s No Such Thing as a Conservative Christian:’  and Other Such Musings on the Faith of the Bible.”  It’s now available at the Amazon.com: Kindle Store.  I’ll be writing more about it in my next post, “Announcing a new book.”  And here’s a clue:  This post comes at the end of the book, as Chapter 27, followed by an “Afterword.”

And now back to the meat of this post, on Garritroopers … in the “Army of Christ.”)

This is an allegory.  (The kind Paul used in Galatians 4:24.)

Suppose our all-volunteer Army had only one option for a new soldier:  The chance to be a “Grunt” his whole career.  Or worse, a career doing only KP duty.  (Shown at left.)  I’d bet they wouldn’t too get many recruits.  And as to that first term:

“[G]runt” is slang for an infantryman or foot soldier.  It is thought that this term arose during the Vietnam War [in 1969.  But since] around 1900, “grunt” has been a word for a low-level worker or laborer.  This is the likely origin of the term “grunt work,” referring to a job that is thankless, boring and exhausting but necessary.  There is no record of how this word became applied to infantrymen though it is indisputable that infantrymen often engage in grunt work.

As to “KP,” that refers to work “assigned to junior U.S. enlisted military personnel.”  Such work includes tedious – but necessary – chores like “dish washing and pot scrubbing, sweeping and mopping floors, wiping tables, serving food on the chow line.”  (On a related note, see Acts 6:2:  “The Twelve Disciples summoned the whole company of the disciples and said, ‘It would not be right for us to give up preaching the word of God to wait on tables.'”)

But “waiting tables” – or doing Grunt Work – are just about the only career options offered up by conservative Christians – in their “Army of Christ.”  (As in 2 Timothy 2:3:  “Endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”)  Or Christian Fundamentalists, who arguably spend their “Army careers” going over and over the same basics they learned back in boot camp.  (See also Oxford Dictionaries, defining a grunt as a “low-ranking or unskilled soldier or other worker.”)

But there is an alternative.  When you join the real “Army of Christ” you don’t have to spend your  career going over the basics, going over the “fundamentals” again and again.

In plain words you don’t have to stay a “Fundamentalist.”  You aren’t locked in to re-learning the Five Fundamentals over and over.  Instead – just like the U.S. Army – after boot camp you have the option to go on to “Advanced Individual Training.”  And some of those “advanced jobs” are pretty exciting.

Like training at the U.S. Army Airborne School, as shown in the photo at the bottom of the page.  From there you can go on to training that is exciting – if not dangerous –  like learning to “guide troops through hostile territory.”  And what hostile territory we Christians face these days.  (Not least of which, danger from those who are supposed to be fellow Soldiers of Christ.)

You can see more about these exciting alternatives in the INTRODUCTION above.  About how reading the Bible with an open mind can open up “a whole new world” – or a whole new continent – like what happened after Lewis and Clark opened up the American West:

 “So, are you ready for your own Great Exploration!!??”

Which brings us back to real soldiers in the Army of Christ, as opposed to “garritroopers.”  An example of such a soldier is shown at the top of the page, drawn up by Bill Mauldin during World War II:  “Too far forward to wear ties an’ too far back to get shot.”  But “getting shot at” – metaphorically or otherwise – is just what a real Soldier of Christ signs on for in his career.

On that note see what is a garet trooper? | Yahoo Answers (on an alternative spelling):

“He was the guy with spit polished boots and clean fatigues that never left the base.  Never at risk, never responsible for his decisions, always looking good and then went home and claimed heroic actions anyway.”

And in yet another spelling, the word “Garrett” – as in “trooper” – is said to come from an old army word for barracks.  So a “Garrett trooper” is one who hangs around the barracks.

I’ve used various terms to describe this type of too-literal Christian. (Not always charitably.)  I’ve called them Boot-camp ChristiansComfort Zone Christianscareer buck privates, and/or Carbon Copy Christians (“Mass produced carbon copies of each other.”)  But for this post the best term could be “hang around the fort Christians.”  They’re the Soldiers of Christ who literally “hang around the fort.”

However – since “hang around the fort” has a negative connotation – the better term could be “hold down the fort Christians.”  Which is of course a highly necessary task.

Someone has to do it.  Or more precisely, some soldiers of Christ are properly charged with maintaining “a secure position,” or maintaining the “proper functioning of some situation or place … typically during someone’s absence.”  But such soldiers err greatly when they say all Soldiers of Christ must be exactly like them.  When they say that all Christians must focus exclusively on “holding down the fort,” rather than getting away from the fort and getting on with the job of a real soldier:  “One who fights as part of an army.”

And as to those soldiers who insist on focusing only on “holding the fort,” see Wikipedia:

In most armies use of the word “soldier” has taken on a more general meaning due to the increasing specialization of military occupations that require different areas of knowledge and skill-sets.  [For examples, see the notes.]

On that note see Ephesians 4:11, where God gave different gifts to different people:  He “appointed some to be apostles, others to be prophets, others to be evangelists, others to be pastors and teachers.”  Or 1st Corinthians 12:28:  “God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, and those with gifts of healing, helping, administration, and various tongues.”

In the same way, God seems to have appointed some too-literal Christians to “hold down the fort,” while others He appointed as rangersscouts, “recon,” or perhaps even Pathfinders:

The modern U.S. Army Pathfinders are an elite force making up less than .01% of the total Army.  Their primary mission is to infiltrate areas and set up parachute drop zones and helicopter landing zones for airborne and air assault missions.

So there you have it.  Just as “Not all Christians are ‘Trump-humping evangelicals,'” so not all Christians are required to either “hang around the fort,” or “hold down the fort.”

As a good soldier in the Army of Christ, you do have the career option of expanding your horizons, and/or testing your limits.  And who knows?  You might even find yourself jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.  (Metaphorically or otherwise…)  

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Flickr - The U.S. Army - First jump with the new T-11 parachute.jpg

Trainees at Army Airborne School – on the way to not becoming garet troopers

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The upper image is courtesy of Garret Trooper Bill Mauldin – Image Results.

The KP duty image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A U.S. Navy sailor working in galley duty aboard the USS Saratoga in March 1986.  (In a bit of artistic license.)

Re:  “Soldier of Christ.”  See also 2 Timothy 2:4.  In the King James Bible – the one God uses – “No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life;  that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”  Likewise the “endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” quote is from the King James Bible.  And see Ephesians 6:11, vis-a-vis the Armor of God, explained in Wikipedia:  “This armor seems to be in direct correlation of that of the Roman Empire‘s soldiers,” at the time.

Also, I originally thought to compare non-conservative Christians – like me – to officers in the Army of Christ, but that was too much of a stretch.  (Given the present plethora of bishops, priests, deacons, and of course a Pope whose authority few Protestants recognize.)  Then too there was the matter of “thinking too much of yourself,” contrary to the authority of Luke 14:9-11:

“When someone invites you to dinner, don’t take the place of honor.  Somebody more important than you might have been invited by the host.  Then he’ll come and call out in front of everybody, ‘You’re in the wrong place.  The place of honor belongs to this man.’  Red-faced, you’ll have to make your way to the very last table, the only place left.  When you’re invited to dinner, go and sit at the last place.  Then when the host comes he may very well say, ‘Friend, come up to the front.’  That will give the dinner guests something to talk about!  What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face.  But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”

Re:  The phrase “hang around the fort” having a negative connotation.  If you start typing in “hang around the fort,” you will probably get the suggested phrase “hang around the fort Indian.”  See for example, Who are hangs around the fort people – Answers.com, referencing the Lakota tribe:

These bands [of Native Americans] lived next to the agencies and tried to live like members of the dominant [white] culture, [and] were rewarded by receiving the best and most of government aid…  Those who were adopting the dominant culture’s ways became the “hang-around-the-fort Indians,” and that term became a contemptuous epithet used by those who were trying to live the traditional ways of the Lakota culture.

See also Irony – Wikipedia, and George Blake, Hang Around the Fort Injun:  Re the term “used among Indians during the Reservation Era to refer to those who were perceived as spending too much time near military encampments, pandering to the U.S. military and becoming involved in white affairs.”

Re:  Army “skill sets:” Artillerymanparatrooperrangersniperengineersappermedic, or gunner.

Also, re: “rangersscouts, ‘recon,’ or pathfinders:”  See U.S. Army Rangers – WikipediaCavalry scout – WikipediaBlack Seminole Scouts – WikipediaReconnaissance – Wikipedia, and/or US Army Pathfinder School – Wikipedia.  The “Follow me” image is courtesy of US Army Follow Me Insignia – Image Results.  See also, United States Army Infantry School – Wikipedia.  

The lower image is courtesy of United States Army Airborne School – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “Students jump from a C-130 using T-11 parachutes during the Airborne School’s final week of training.”  Located in Fort BenningGA, this jump school “conducts the basic paratrooper (military parachutist) training for the United States armed forces.”

On Jesus “cracking wise”

 The “Laughing Jesus…”

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https://mediamythalert.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/braburning_atlcty_1968.jpgFirst a note:  I originally posted this on January 23, 2015.  But yesterday, reading over some old posts, I noticed the bottom picture in this one was missing.  Or more precisely there was a box with some information written inside, probably “URL” information or the like.  So I decided to re-post this one, and may do the same with others, like Jonah and the bra-burners, first posted on January 19, 2015.  (And leading with the picture at left.)

So here’s a “new improved version” of Jesus “cracking wise.”

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The Gospel reading for January 18[, 2015] was John 1:43-51.  It told of Jesus meeting Philip and Nathanael.  An earlier post (Bible readings for January 18) told of a commentator saying Nathanael  was a bit of a “wiseacre.”  Commentator also suggested that Jesus greeted Nathanael with a sarcastic joke, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom [there] is no guile!”   This was after Nathanael was reluctant to “come and see” the man Philip thought was the Messiah.

The idea of this “sarcastic joke to Nathanael” came from a Sacred Story article.  The article said the Israel Jesus referred to “was the new name of Jacob, who was well-known as a deceitful trickster who fooled both his father and brother.’  I also noted some contrary, “more traditional” interpretations, such as John 1:47 When Jesus saw Nathanael:

[Jesus] is described as knowing what was in man…  He makes use of his Divine prerogative [and] penetrated the surface to [Nathanael’s] inner motive and heart.  Behold, an Israelite indeed; one who fulfils the true idea of Israel, a prince with God, a conqueror of God by prayer, and conqueror of man by submission, penitence, and restitution…  In whom is no guile; i.e. no self-deception, and no disposition to deceive others.

So the Pulpit Commentary on John 1:47 had Jesus saying Nathanael was not a deceitful trickster.   Rather Jesus was saying Nathanael was a true “prince with God,” a penitent man with “no disposition to deceive others.”  And Gill’s Exposition of John 1:47 interpreted the phrase “behold an Israelite indeed” as meaning “a true son of Jacob’s; an honest, plain hearted man.”

So which was it?   Was Jesus saying Nathanael was an “honest, plain-hearted man,” without guile or deceit, “just like Jacob?”  Or was Jesus being sarcastic, “cracking wise?”

File:Leloir - Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.jpgWe can start with the fact that the name “Israel” referred to a man who literally wrestled with God.  (See On arguing with God, with the image at right.)  That’s how Jacob got his name changed to Israel.

(That post also said maybe we too should wrestle with God:  “that’s how we get spiritually stronger, by ‘resistance training,’” not “passively accepting” everything in the Bible.)

But we also know that Jacob was shrewd, starting from the moment of his birth.  Jacob and twin brother Esau literally “wrestled in the womb.”  And while Esau was born a few seconds before his brother, “his heel was grasped by the hand of Jacob.”  The name Jacob – Ya`aqovin Hebrew – literally translates to “heel-catcher,” “leg-puller,” or “supplanter.”  See Jacob – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, and also Genesis 25:19-28.   (Verse 28 also notes that while the father Isaac loved Esau – his first-born son – Rebekah the mother loved Jacob more.)

Isaac Asimov added that since Esau was born first, he was entitled to inherit the first-born’s “main portion of his father’s property.”  (Such a blessing had “great legalistic value in the society of that time.”)  But Jacob outmaneuvered his older brother, getting his birthright in exchange for some “pottage,” when Esau was starving.  See Genesis 25:27-34, “Thus Esau despised his birthright.”  So this was when Jacob “fooled his brother,” as noted in Sacred Story.

Then – as Asimov noted – came a “second successful deceit on the part of Jacob.”

Years later, as Isaac lay “blind and awaiting death,” he wanted to give Esau his final blessing. (That also had “great legalistic value”).  But Jacob fooled his father by dressing up in Esau’s clothes and putting goatskins on his arms “to imitate Esau’s hairiness.”  (This all happened as Esau was out hunting, at his father’s request, to prepare one last time the “savory food” his father Isaac loved so much.)  The story in Genesis 27:1-45 goes on to tell of Esau hating and planning to kill Jacob, because of his trickery.  (The blind and “tricked” Isaac gave Jacob his final blessing, not Esau.)  Genesis 27 also told of his mother’s scheme to save him.  So here we’ve seen the story of Jacob fooling “both his father and brother.

But wait, there’s more!

Rebekah sent Jacob to stay with her brother Laban.  Laban ended up as Jacob’s father-in-law, after first tricking him – Jacob – to marry Leah, his first-born daughter.  (See, Jacob really loved and “bargained for” Rachel, but Leah had to get married first, by the law of the time, so he ended up marrying both of them.)  Which led to yet another bit of “guile” on the part of Jacob.

He wanted to return home – with wives Rachel and Leah – but he also wanted compensation:

Laban was reluctant to release him, as God had blessed his flock on account of Jacob.  Laban asked what he could pay Jacob.  Jacob proposed that all the spotted, speckled, and brown goats and sheep of Laban’s flock, at any given moment, would be his wages.  Jacob placed peeled rods of poplar, hazel, and chestnut within the flocks’ watering holes or troughs…

See Jacob(With the image of him and his mother Rachel, at left.)   See also Genesis 30 … Bible Gateway, verses 25-42, titled “Jacob Prospers at Laban’s Expense.”  Briefly, Jacob agreed to be paid by taking only the “speckled and spotted sheep and every black lamb, and the spotted and speckled among the goats.”  But then he made the peeled rods of poplar, hazel, and chestnut noted above, and put them in front of watering holes.  According to the Bible, that’s the trickery that made Jacob rich:

[S]ince they bred when they came to drink, the flocks bred in front of the rods and so the flocks brought forth striped, speckled, and spotted…   Whenever the stronger of the flock were breeding Jacob laid the rods in the runnels before the eyes of the flock, that they might breed among the rods, but for the feebler of the flock he did not lay them there; so the feebler were Laban’s, and the stronger Jacob’s.  Thus the man [Jacob] grew exceedingly rich…

So Jacob grew exceedingly rich at the expense of his father-in-law.  He bargained for “only” the speckled and spotted sheep, then took steps to make sure that most of the sheep and the strongest of the sheep turned out to be “speckled and spotted.”

In the fullness of time, Jacob went on to “wrestle with God” and become the patriarch Israel,as told in Genesis 32:22-32.  He fathered 12 sons, who became the 12 tribes of Israel:  “The children named in Genesis were Reuben (shown at right), SimeonLeviJudahDanNaphtaliGadAsherIssacharZebulun, daughter DinahJoseph, and Benjamin.”  (See Jacob, which also indicated daughter Dinah didn’t count as a “tribe.”)

Which gets us back to the question:  When Jesus greeted Nathanael in John 1:47 – Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom [there] is no guile!” – what was He really saying?  Was He saying Nathanael was a “prince with God,” a penitent man with “no disposition to deceive?”  Or was He “cracking wise?”  (Or maybe He was quoting Psalm 32:2, “Happy are they to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, and in whose spirit there is no guile!”  Which still doesn’t solve the question.)

John 1:43-45 described Philip meeting Jesus, then going to find Nathanael and tell him the news; “Jesus of Nazareth was the one foretold in the scriptures as the savior of his people.”  As the Sacred Story article went on to say, “Nathanael listened, and made a wise-crack – ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?‘”  (See John 1:46)

So the question is:  Did Jesus respond to Nathanael’s sarcastic comment – under the fig tree – with a sarcastic comment of His own?  Did Jesus laugh, make jokes, be sarcastic?

That’s ultimately for you to decide, but I’ve said all along that God has a sense of humor.

Aside from making Mick Jagger a grandfather, there’s also Psalm 2:4, “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.”  Psalm 37:13 says, “The LORD laughs at the wicked, because He sees that their day will come.” (That’s Psalm 37:14 in the BCP Revised Standard version.)   Then there’s Psalm 59:8, “But you laugh at them, LORD; you scoff at all those nations.”  And finally see Psalm 104:26, “there is that Leviathan, which you [God] have made for the sport of it.”  (Psalm 104:27 in the BCP RSV.) 

In turn I’ve done many posts on the subject.  Just type in “God sense humor” in the search-box above right.  Those posts include On Robin Williams’ “Top Ten,” in memory of man who “had a gift for turning tragedy into something we could laugh at – and with.”

But don’t just take my word for it.  There’s also the site Who was Canadian behind iconic image of “Laughing Jesus?”  That’s where the image above came from, but there’s some debate about who actually created the original.  Be that as it may, it’s popular:  “One of the most popular images of Jesus today is a painting of him laughing.”

Unfortunately, time and space – not to mention the reader’s “attention span of a gerbil” – are running out.  That means it’s time to wrap this up.

We can close by noting there’s also some question about who this sarcastic Nathanael really was.  The consensus is that he was actually Bartholomew the Apostle, “one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, and is usually identified with Nathanael (alternatively spelled Nathaniel).”

See also Nathanael – Believed To Be The Apostle Bartholomew:  “Church tradition says Nathanael carried a translation of Matthew’s Gospel to northern India.  Legend claims he was crucified upside down in Albania.”

Which means there’s enough tragedy to around, as if we didn’t know that already.  (Crucified upside down in Albania, indeed!)  In turn it would be nice to think that Jesus, like Robin Williams, “had a gift for turning tragedy into something we could laugh at – and with.”

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Leviathan, which God made “for the sport of it…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Laughing Jesus – Image Results.

The full citation for the “Sacred Story” article is sacredstory.org/2012 … nathanael-and-the-fig-tree.  From the Sacred Story home page:  “Do you wonder about your life as a spiritual journey?  Do you have questions about the Bible?  Are you interested in conversations about God?  Then this blog is written for you – not as an easy source of authoritarian answers, but as a shared exploration of the questions.”   Ditto!!!

The lower image is courtesy of Leviathan – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “‘Destruction of Leviathan,’ 1865 engraving by Gustave Doré.’”

See also Bartholomew the Apostle – Wikipedia, “He is described as initially being skeptical about the Messiah coming from Nazareth, saying: ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’”

The post Bible readings for January 18  included notes on the term wiseacre, variously defined as:  1) a person who possesses or affects to possess great wisdom;  2) a wise guy;  or 3) “Old person speak for smartass.”  Dictionary.com added the term is “often used facetiously or contemptuously.”

On the THREE days of Hallowe’en…

“A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows…”

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (“Who comes to Him.”  See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Jack-o'-Lantern 2003-10-31.jpgMost people think Halloween is one day, October 31st.  But there are actually three days of “Hallowe’en.”  Or more precisely, Halloween is the first day of the Halloween “Triduum.”  (In the alternative Allhallowtide.) 

And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”

In turn the word “hallow” – in both “Hallowe’en” and “Allhallowtide” – came from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.  That eventually became “hallow.”  (Maybe because it was easier to say.)  Which led to November 1 now being called All Saints’ Day.  But to the Old English, “All Haligs’ Day” – November 1 – eventually became “All Hallows Day.”  Then the “eve” before that Feast Day – October 31 – became “All Hallows Evening.”  In time that shortened to “All Hallows E’en.”  And later still it shortened to “Hallowe’en,” then just plain Halloween.

Wikipedia said this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead, including martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.”  The main day of the three is November 1, now called All Saints Day, but previously referred to as Hallowmas.  It was established sometime between 731 and 741 – over 1,300 years ago – “perhaps by Pope Gregory III.”

Put another way, November 1 honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown.”  In other words, special people in the Church.  (A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”)  On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – was designed to honor “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks (Those of us who have died, that is.)

So back to Halloween:  It all started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter.  The “old-timers” also thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were at their its lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:

So, those old-time people would wear masks or put on costumes in order to disguise their identities.  The idea was to keep the afterlife “hallows” – ghosts or spirits – from recognizing the people in this, the “material world.”

Another thing they did was build bonfires, literally bonefires.  (That is, “bonfires were originally fires in which bones were burned.”)  The original idea was that evil spirits had to be driven away with noise and fire.  But that evolved into this:  The “fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.”

There was another old-time custom, that if you had to travel on All Hallows E’en – like from 11:00 p.m. until midnight – your had to be careful.  If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen.  (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”)  But if your candle went out, “the omen was bad indeed.”

The thought was that the candle had been blown out by witches

Then there were the pumpkins.  Apparently some other old-time people set out carved pumpkins on their windowsills, to keep “harmful spirits” out of their home.   But yet another tradition said  jack-o’-lanterns “represented Christian souls in purgatory.”  And while today jack-o’-lanterns are made from pumpkins, but were originally carved from large turnips.

In turn, both the jack-o’-lantern and Will-o’-the-wisp – at right, in a Japanese interpretation – are tied in with the strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”)  That refers to the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes.  It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Tradition had it that this ghostly light – seen by travelers at night and “especially over bogs, swamps or marshes – resembled a flickering lamp.  The flickering lamp then receded if you approached it, and so it “drew travelers from their safe paths,” to their doom…

Finally we get to the third of the three-day holiday – November 2 – All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below.

“Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives” on November 2.  The custom began in the sixth century with a Benedictine custom of commemorating deceased members of a given monastery at Whitsuntide.  (Or “Whit(e) Sunday,” also known as Pentecost, held 50 days after Easter Sunday.)  That changed in the 11th century when Saint Odilo of Cluny chose the day after All Souls Day to commemorate “all the faithful departed … with alms, prayers, and sacrifices for the relief of the suffering souls in purgatory.”

On that note, here’s the Collect for All Saints Day, from the Lectionary Page website:

Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in one communion and fellowship in the mystical body of your Son Christ our Lord:  Give us grace so to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living, that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;  through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

So there you have it.  In closing, here’s wishing you a happy three days of Hallowe’en. 

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William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) - The Day of the Dead (1859).jpg

The “Three Days of Halloween” end November 2, with All Souls’ Day …

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The upper image is courtesy of Allhallowtide – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “A graveyard outside a Lutheran church in Röke, Sweden on the feast of All Hallows.  Flowers and lighted candles are placed by relatives on the graves of their deceased loved ones.”

The image of the jack-o’lantern is courtesy of Halloween – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “A jack-o’-lantern, one of the symbols of Halloween representing the souls of the dead.”

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls’ Day – Wikipedia.  The caption: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau.”   See also Allhallowtide, and All Saints’ Day – Wikipedia.

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men…

A colorful Japanese illustration of the parable of the Blind men and elephant… 

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In the meantime:

October 23 is the Feast Day for James, the brother of Jesus.  About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part.  He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”

According to Wikipedia – and other sources – “In the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and Lutheran Church, James, brother of Jesus and martyr is commemorated on October 23.”  On the other hand the Feast Day for James the Greater is on July 25.  See On “St. James the Greater,” posted July 24, 2014.  Among other things, James the Greater is considered the “patron saint of pilgrims.”  Seen at left, he is “depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

And incidentally, in that July 2014 post I got these two Jameses mixed up, which is apparently not that uncommon.  See for example The Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study.  That site listed the following men named James in the New Testament:  1) James the son of Zebedee and brother of the Apostle St. John (James the Greater);  2) James the “brother” of Jesus (whose Feast Day is October 23);  3) the Apostle James, “son of Alphaeus;”  and 4) James, the father of the Apostle Jude.

So anyway, this particular “James” is considered to be the author of the Epistle of James.  And according to his Wikipedia article, “As many as six different men in the Bible are named James.”  All of which makes for more than the usual amount of confusion.  For example:

Roman Catholic tradition generally holds that this James is to be identified with James, son of Alphaeus, and James the Less.  It is agreed by most [Catholics, apparently] that he should not be confused with James, son of Zebedee.

Saint James the Just.jpgBe that as it may, here’s what the Wikipedia article said about this particular “10/23” James – whose “icon” is shown at right:

The Pauline epistles and the later chapters of the Acts of the Apostles portray James as an important figure in the Christian community of Jerusalem.  When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith…  Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9, Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.

Another note:  The Gospel for this Feast Day is Matthew 13:54-58.  It tells of Jesus returning to His home town and teaching in the synagogue.  As a result, the locals were “astounded” at His teaching, and started asking, “Is not this the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?”

But wait!  There’s still more confusion!  This time as to James’ death:  “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.”  But “Clement of Alexandria relates that ‘James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.'”  All of which brings up the “parable of the Blind men and elephant.”

I discussed this parable in Reading the Bible (July 2014), On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel” (June 2015), and On snake-handling “redux” (May 2016).  I added a new wrinkle to the “Seven Blind Men and the Elephant” with the April 2018 post, “Trump-humping” – and Christians arguing with each other(Including the image at left.)

The gist of that post was that Good Christians should be able to “argue” with each other – in the good sense.  (The sense of “civil” lawyers presenting concise and reasoned bases to support their position, and not resorting to name-calling or “ad hominem” attacks.)

The gist of that post was also that in doing so, such “Good” Christians can fulfill their duty as “Watchmen of Christ” for each other, pursuant to Ezekiel 3:16-19 (“Task as Watchman“):

 [T]he word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel…   When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood.   But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin;  but you will have saved yourself.

So if one good Christian sees another one in error, he is duty-bound to discuss that potential error.  And from the resulting “spirited debate,” both Christians may get ever closer to “the Truth.”  As Wikipedia noted, the parable can be used to “illustrate a range of truths and fallacies.”  For example, “one’s subjective experience can be true, but [is] inherently limited by its failure to account for other truths or a totality of truth.”

At various times the parable has provided insight into the relativism, opaqueness or inexpressible nature of truth, [as well as] the need for deeper understanding, and respect for different perspectives on the same object of observation.

Of course such “persuasion” can only work with Christians willing to admit they don’t have all the answers, or that anyone who disagrees with them is “going to hell.”  (From the “very-American concept of the adversary system – a basic tenet of our legal system – as the best way of arriving at ‘the truth.’”)  And which is actually based on the Bible, like in Ezekiel, Chapter 3.

The point of the parable was that each blind man, “in his own opinion,” thought the elephant was “like a wall, snake, spear, tree, fan or rope, depending upon where they had touched.”  Which led to this “Moral,” from the poem by John Godfrey Saxe (1816–1887):

So oft in theologic wars, The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant not one of them has seen!

And if such disputes can arise over a “mere elephant,” it’s no small wonder how many heated arguments have come over the full depth and meaning of God, a God “not one of them has seen!”  Or as Apostle Paul said, “For now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; but then shall I know, even as also I am known.” (1st Corinthians 13:12.”

And if the Apostle Paul can admit that even he could see “only in part,” who are we to say we know “everything there is to know about God,” or dare to tell other people how to live?

All of which brings up what the great philosopher Charlie Chan once noted:

“Mind like parachute; work best when open.”

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http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51smUOfD0aL.jpg

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The upper image is courtesy of Blind men and elephant – Wikipedia.  The ull caption: “Blind monks examining an elephant, an ukiyo-e print by Hanabusa Itchō (1652–1724).”  This parable has “crossed between many religious traditions and is part of of JainBuddhistSufi and Hindu lore.”  (Wikipedia.)  In the Buddhist version, “The men cannot agree with one another and come to blows over the question of what it is like and their dispute delights the king.  The Buddha ends the story by comparing the blind men to preachers and scholars who are blind and ignorant and hold to their own views.”  See also Matthew 13:34 (ESV):  “All these things Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable.

The lower image of Charlie Chan is courtesy of amazon.com/Charlie-Collection-Honolulu-Treasure.  See also Some Bible basics from Vince Lombardi and Charlie Chan, which included the Home-page quote, “Mind like parachute.  Work best when open.”  See also THE BASICS, above.   

On Luke and the “rich young man”

The ‘Sacrifice of Isaac,’ where God finally said “Stop!  Let’s change some ‘traditional values…’”

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Grandes Heures Anne de Bretagne Saint Luc.jpgThursday, October 18, is the Feast Day for St. Luke.  (Shown at left.)

Luke wrote the third-of-four Gospels, along with the book Acts of the Apostles (What is called “the fifth book of the New Testament.”)  

I’ll be writing more on Luke the Evangelist below, and in doing so I’ll be citing St. Luke – 2015.  But first I want to note a revelation I had during last Sunday’s sermon.  It was about last Sunday’s GospelMark 10:17-31(From the readings for Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost.)  It told the story of Jesus and the rich young man.

Matthew wrote that the rich young man first asked Jesus how to get “eternal life.”  (How to “get to heaven.”)  Then – after the young man told Jesus he already observed all the commandments – Jesus said:  “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.”  Luke’s Gospel added that when he heard this, the rich young man “became very sad, because he was very wealthy.”  That’s when Jesus said it would be “easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

But in last Sunday’s sermon, our visiting priest asked us to imagine something different.  Like what would have happened if the young man had agreed to do what Jesus said?

That is, suppose the rich young man had actually starting selling all his possessions and giving the profits to the poor.  The priest theorized that Jesus probably would have said this:  “Stop!  I was only trying to make a point!  Let’s work something out so you can keep your goods and possessions and put them to good use in the service of the Lord…

That’s when it hit me.  The priest’s theory wasn’t all that crazy.  There was legal precedent for his position.  It struck me that it could have been very much like what God did when he asked Abraham to sacrifice his own son.  And when Abraham indicated his willingness to follow God’s orders.  On that note, see Abraham and Isaac – Where God CHANGED some “traditional values and attitudes.”

That post noted that the Abraham-Isaac story bothers a lot of people, because it seems to show God ordering a father to kill his own son.  “And that’s the view you would take if you took the lesson literally.”  But at the time Abraham lived, child sacrifice was pretty routine.  In fact, you could call it a prevailing “traditional value.”

Which means the Abraham-Isaac story is not one of God being cruel.  Instead:

“[I]n that age, it was astounding that Abraham’s God should have interposed to prevent the sacrifice, not that He should have asked for it.”  [Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz (1872 -1946)] interpreted the Akedah as demonstrating to the Jews that human sacrifice is abhorrent…  So to a reasonable Semite at the time … a father offering his son as a “sacrifice to the gods” was so common that the Akedah proved the noteworthy exception.

A note:  Akedah is Hebrew short-hand for the Abraham-Isaac story, and translates “The Binding.”

So anyway, the main point of the Abraham-Isaac story is that God never intended that Abraham actually kill Isaac.  In the same way, the point of the “Jesus and the rich young man” story could be that Jesus never wanted the rich young man to give up all his possessions.  What he wanted was the rich young man’s willingness to do so.  But mostly He wanted the rich young man to use and develop his talents, so he could put them to the “service of the Lord.”

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Which brings us back to Luke the Evangelist.  And speaking of developing your talents:  The noted Catholic writer Garry Wills – in his book What the Gospels Meant – noted that Luke wrote the longest of the four Gospels.  He added that Acts of the Apostles is almost as long, and that these two of Luke’s books together “thus make up a quarter of the New Testament.”  (And they’re longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.)  He said Luke is rightly considered the most humane of the Gospel writers, and quoted Dante as saying Luke was a “describer of Christ’s kindness.”

Thus Luke’s Gospel was arguably the most beautiful book that ever was.”

But – again speaking of developing your talents – Luke wasn’t just a great writer.  He was also – according to tradition – an artist.  Beyond that, he was said to be the first icon painter, and to have painted pictures of the Virgin Mary and Child, as shown in the image below.

Which means Luke’s version of the Jesus story is one we should pay special attention to.  And especially to being “humane” and active practitioners of “Christ’s kindness.”

So as noted in Luke 8:8 and Luke 14:35, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

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File:Maarten van Heemskerck - St Luke Painting the Virgin and Child - WGA11299.jpg

“Saint Luke painting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child…” 

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The upper image is courtesy of Binding of Isaac – Wikipedia.  The full caption reads: “’The Sacrifice of Isaac’ by Caravaggio, in the Baroque tenebrist manner.”  As to the wording of the caption, see “Or words to that effect” – Wiktionary, and also “Or Words to that Effect” – Adoremus Bulletin, quoting the character Richard Rich in the plan “A Man for All Seasons.”

Re:  Abraham – Wikipedia.  The caption to the image to the right of the paragraph starting “That’s when it hit me” is captioned:  “Abraham about to sacrifice Isaac. From a 14th-century missal.”

As to the “Hertz” reference, “Rabbi Joseph Herman Hertz, CH (September 25, 1872 – January 14, 1946) was a Jewish Hungarian-born rabbi and Bible scholar. He is most notable for holding the position of Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom from 1913 until his death in 1946, in a period encompassing both world wars and the Holocaust.”  Another note, “CH” stands for “Order of the Companions of Honour,” an order of the “Commonwealth realms … as a reward for outstanding achievements and is ‘conferred upon a limited number of persons for whom this special distinction seems to be the most appropriate form of recognition.'”

Re:  “He wanted the rich young man to use and develop his talents.”  The full blog-post cite – from December 2015 – is Develop your talents with Bible study.

The lower image is courtesy of File: Maarten van Heemskerck – St Luke Painting the Virgin, and/or “Wikimedia.”  See also Maarten van Heemskerck – Wikipedia, which noted that the artist (1498-1574) was a “Dutch portrait and religious painter, who spent most of his career in Haarlem,” and did the painting above in or about 1532.

A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!”

http://cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-review

A good “soldier of Christ” starts in boot camp, then moves to Advanced Individual Training

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Graham in a suit with his fist clenchedI’ve been listening to the book-on-CD version of The Preacher and the Presidents: Billy Graham in the White House(Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy.)  I skipped the early parts, about Graham when he was young and full of himself.  And way more conservative than he was in later life. 

Which is another way of saying that  – as he grew in age – Billy Graham “also grew in grace.”  See e.g., 2d Peter 3:18.  In fact, Graham eventually grew in grace so much that he came to say that God loves all people – even Liberals.  Which led some Fundamentalists to criticize him “for his ecumenism, even calling him ‘Antichrist.’”  On that note, see not only Deuteronomy 19:16-19, but also the Pulpit Commentary for 2 Peter 3:18, cited above:

Growth is necessary for steadfastness;  we cannot persevere unless we continually advance in faith (comp. 1st Peter 1:5-71st Peter 2:2).

Which is pretty much the main theme of this blog:  That open-minded growth is a necessary part of any good Christian’s journey through life. See also 1st Peter 2:2:  “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”  Which is another way of saying that too-conservative Christians seem happy to stay “newborn babes,” Biblically speaking.

And incidentally, Deuteronomy 19:16-19 says if you accuse someone of a crime and he’s not guilty of it, you are punished as if you committed the crime yourself.  (So if you accused someone of being “Antichrist” and he’s not, then you would be punished as if you were real Antichrist, shown at right.)

Which brings us back to Billy Graham, who started out himself as a Bible literalist.  That led to an early confrontation with fellow evangelist Charles Templeton.  Described at pages 2-4 of The Preacher and the Presidents book, you can see it online at Billy Graham and Charles Templeton:  The Sad Tale of Two Evangelists.  Basically, Graham said, “When I take the Bible literally … my preaching has power.”  The thing is, Moses likely said the same thing when he started telling the Hebrews in the Wilderness how they got there and where they were going.  And had to “dumb it down.”

All of which led me to the following thoughts:

In Conservative Christian – “Career buck private,”  I noted what Paul said in 2d Timothy 2:3-4 “Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.  No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.” (Emphasis added.)  And I agreed that the best place to start “Bible training” is to take it literally:

Just like Army Basic Training, the best place to start is with the fundamentals:  “This is where individuals learn about the fundamentals of being a soldier…”  But no good soldier wants to be stuck as a buck private [during] his whole time “in service.”  (Although there are some few [“soldiers of Christ”] who enjoy having no additional responsibility…)

In turn I concluded that this blog is for and about those Christians who want to develop into something “more than just someone who knows the bare ‘fundamentals.’”

See also Spiritual boot camp, which said that with the right way of Bible study we get “more adept at living life in all its abundance,” as promised in John 10:10.  And that you could say it’s a bit “like spiritual boot camp (but with ‘humor and compassion’).”

Which brings us back to Billy Graham and Charles Templeton.

For one thing, Templeton said, “Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe” the Bible account of creation.  But Templeton overlooked that Moses didn’t write the Creation account – and the rest of the Torah – for modern scholars.  See Moses and Paul “dumbing it down.”  That post noted that if Moses had said things like “the earth we live on actually revolves around that ‘big bright thing in the sky’ … he would have gotten stoned, burned at the stake or worse.”

Templeton also overlooked that when Graham preached the Bible literally, he wasn’t trying to recruit generals.  (To use the soldier metaphor.)  He wanted to recruit people for basic training, where they could go and “learn the fundamentals.”  In plain words, Graham was recruiting Army “privates,” many of whom would choose to stay privates in the Army of Christ.

So I was wrong in saying there are “some few ‘soldiers of Christ’ who enjoy having no additional responsibility.”  As in any army, “privates” make up the bulk of personnel, not “some few.”  That is, I’ve reconsidered “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”  (Including the image at right.)  Because whatever the branch of service there are far more “privates” than officers or other advanced personnel.

Depending on the branch, the ratio of officers – who you could say did “Way Advanced Individual Training” – can range from 4.1 to one (Air Force) to eight to one (Marine Corps).  But regardless of the differences, each service depends more – numerically – on its enlisted personnel, including “career buck privates.”  For one thing, they help recruit other career privates and so keep the army – here, the “Army of Christ” – functioning at a high level.

And so with the Army of Christ.  It – like our other armed services – could well be based on a having most soldiers choosing not to go much beyond “learning the fundamentals.”

And if all that’s true – and I believe it is – then this blog is designed for those Soldiers of Christ wanting to advance beyond basic training, beyond learning the fundamentals and beyond being a “career private.”  There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s wrong to claim that’s the only way to succeed as a Soldier of Christ.  Some of us want to explore our full potential.  Some of us want to develop our talents.  Some of us want to explore life “to the full,” and so go…

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The upper “boot-camp” image is courtesy of cmsimg.marinecorpstimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=M6&Date=20120913&Category=NEWS&ArtNo=209130325&Ref=AR&MaxW=640&Border=0&Boot-camp-curriculum-up-review.

The Antichrist image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Luca Signorelli‘s 1501 depiction of the face of antichrist, from the Orvieto Cathedral.”  The term is “usually seen as marking out a certain category of persons, rather than an individual.”  Compare the “similar word ‘pseudochrist’ (Greek pseudokhristos, meaning ‘false messiah’).” 

Continuing the soldier metaphor: After Basic Training, the good soldier – and by extension the ‘Good Soldier of Christ’ – has a chance to go on to Advanced Individual Training, ‘where new soldiers receive specific training in their chosen MOS.’  For example, a new soldier could go to the Field Artillery Center at Fort Sill Oklahoma.  (With all of the Freudian implications appertaining thereto.  Or to the Aviation School at Fort Rucker Alabama.  Or even to the Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca, Arizona.”  Or perhaps even go off to Officer Candidate School

Re:  The ratio of privates to officers, etc.  See What is the typical ratio of officers to enlisted soldiersWhy are the Ratios for officers and enlisted so different, and In the US Navy, what is the ratio of officers to enlisted personnel?

The “No such thing as a ‘conservative Christian … image at right” had the caption, “Would a conservative Christian wrestle with God – like Jacob – and risk being transformed?”

The lower image is courtesy of To Infinity And Beyond – Image Results.

On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel”

File:Brugghen, Hendrick ter - The Calling of St. Matthew - 1621.jpg

The Calling of St. Matthew,” by Hendrick ter Brugghenas described in Matthew 9:9-13… 

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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”

This blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (See John 6:37.)  The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance (John 10:10.)   The third is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12.)  The fourth – and most overlooked – is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind.  See Luke 24:45:  “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”

And this thought ties them together:

The only way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is – as noted – to read the Bible with an open mind.  For more, see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

I wrote in 2016’s St. Matthew and “Cinderella” that two major feast days in September are Holy Cross Day (9/14) and St. Matthew, Evangelist (9/21).  A third major feast day comes on September 29, for “St. Michael and All Angels.”  And just as an aside, there’s a painting in that last post, “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.”  To which I said:

 “Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

There’s more on that later, but first:  To review, 9/14’s Holy Cross Day is one of several Feasts of the Cross, all of which “commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus:”

In English, it is called The Exaltation of the Holy Cross in the official translation of the Roman Missal, while the 1973 translation called it The Triumph of the Cross.  In some parts of the Anglican Communion the feast is called Holy Cross Day…

As far as St. Matthew and “Cinderella” go, that post noted that the love Jesus had for all mankind extended even to tax collectors (As caricatured at left.)

That is, in Jesus’ time – and among the Jewish people especially – such a tax farmer as Matthew was “sure to be hated above all men as a merciless leech who would take the shirt off a dying child.”  And so – during the time of Jesus – devout Jews avoided them at all costs.

They were fellow Jews, but worked for the Romans as tax collectors.  And “because they were usually dishonest (the job carried no salary, and they were expected to make their profits by cheating the people from whom they collected taxes).”  Which led to this lesson from Jesus:

Thus, throughout the Gospels, we find tax collectors (publicans) mentioned as a standard type of sinful and despised outcast.  Matthew brought many of his former associates to meet Jesus, and social outcasts in general were shown that the love of Jesus extended even to them.

“Which turned out to be good news for pretty much all of us.”  Because – as a Bible conservative would have said in Jesus’ time – The Good News didn’t extend to us “Gentiles.”

There’s more good news in “St. Michael and All Angels.”  If you can keep an open mind.  I mentioned the painting captioned, “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.”  And that I’m ready to “take all the help I can get!”  But first some background:

Michael is mentioned most prominently in Revelation 12:7-10:

[T]here was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.  And prevailed not…   [T]he great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world; he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.   And I heard a loud voice saying … the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.

See also Michael (archangel) – Wikipedia, which noted that in the “New Testament Michael leads God’s armies against Satan‘s forces … where during the war in heaven he defeats Satan.”  Also, Michael is mentioned three times in the Book of Daniel, once as a “great prince who stands up for the children of your people.”  And the formal name for September 29 is Michaelmas.

Now comes the tricky part.  I go to the Episcopal Church, part of the Anglican Communion.   We use the Book of Common Prayer.  And the Prayer Book says the idea of purgatory is both a “Romish doctrine” and “repugnant to the Word of God.”  But like I said, I’m willing to be flexible.

The thing is, without purgatory your dying day is pass-fail.  You’re either in or you’re out.  You either go to heaven or “down, down the down-down way.”  But with purgatory you get another chance.  You can enter that “intermediate state after physical death,” where some of those “ultimately destined for heaven” can first undergo “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.”  And like I said, I’m willing to be flexible.

So here’s to Michael (archangel), and his reaching out to save souls in purgatory.”

Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

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“Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory . . .”

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The upper image is courtesy of  Brugghen, Hendrick ter – The Calling of St. Matthew See also Matthew the Apostle – Wikipedia.

Re:  “Such a tax farmer as St. Matthew.”  The reference is to a post in 2014, On St. Matthew.

Re:  Purgatory as a “Romish doctrine.”  See page 872 of the BCP, or The Online Book of Common Prayer under Historical Documents of the Church, Articles of Religion, Part XXII:

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well
of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and
grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God.

But another note on Purgatory and the Episcopal Church:  “Although denying the existence of purgatory as formulated in Roman Catholic doctrine, the Anglican and Methodist traditions … affirm the existence of an intermediate state, Hades, and thus pray for the dead.”  The latter will be addressed later this month, as noted in 2017’s On the THREE days of Hallowe’en.

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, with the full caption: “Guido Reni‘s painting in Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, 1636 is also reproduced in mosaic at the St. Michael Altar in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican.”

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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  The first is that God will accept anyone.  (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”)  The second is that God wants us to live abundantly.  (John 10:10.)   The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus.  (John 14:12).    A fourth theme:  The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:

…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity.  According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable…  Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency

So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians.  They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.”  But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer…   (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…)

Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.”  See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?”  The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by “learning the fundamentals.”  But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.

Also, and as noted in “Buck private,” I’d previously said the theme of this blog was that if you really want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*”  

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpgIn other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.”  See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001.  The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.”

*  Re: “mystical.”  As originally used, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.”  See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism.  (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”)

For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?

I’m back from my Rideau pilgrimage…

An old-timey – 1906 – photo of the Poonamalie lockstation on the Rideau Canal in Canada.

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Ottawa LockstationI just got back from three weeks canoeing the Rideau Canal in Canada with my brother.  We paddled from Kingston – on Lake Ontario – to Ottawa.  (The image at left shows the last eight locks on the system – in downtown Ottawa – which we didn’t make, for reasons explained in the notes.)

One thing I learned:  This canoe trip was “more of a Camino than the Camino.”  (To see what I mean, check out “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited or “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts in my companion blog.  About the same brother and I hiking – and biking – 450 miles of the Camino de Santiago.)

That is, the Camino de Santiago is often so crowded that it’s hard to get a thought in “edgewise.”  But there on the Rideau water system, there were plenty of times when all I had to do was paddle, and think.  Think a lot about my aches and pains – and how mind-numbingly boring it is to paddle a canoe hour after hour.  But also, just to think – period – without all the distractions of modern life.  For more on that idea see St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.

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And now an overview:  The guide books say it should take six to ten days to paddle the 125 miles to Ottawa.  They also say prevailing winds are “generally” from the southwest, but “be ready for anything.”  We took 11-and-a-half days – 11 nights – but two of those nights we spent in relative luxury in a rustic cabin in Portland, Ontario (For nine days “actual canoeing.*”)

1534935865425That came after taking a wrong turn padding north from Colonel By Island the morning of Wednesday, August 22.  That overnight campsite included a violent rainstorm and raccoons breaking into our food containers and taking our supplies of breakfast bars, crackers and trail mix.  That in turn was preceded by paddling through a veritable monsoon the afternoon of Tuesday, August 21.  That morning we made 10 miles, but in the afternoon – after leaving the Narrows (Lock 35) – we made four miles before stopping at ” Colonel By.”

But such is “the stuff of legends.”  And we digress…

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Getting back to James, Steinbeck, and sluts, that post noted about “pilgrims:”

pilgrim … is a traveler (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place.  Typically, this is a physical journeying (often on foot) to some place of special significance to the adherent of a particular religious belief system.  In the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to the experience of life in the world (…as a period of exile) or to the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude.

In other words, a pilgrim is someone on a quest to “find himself.”  (See also Self-discovery – Wikipedia.)  And one way of finding yourself is through a healthy sense of ritual, as noted in Passages of the Soul:  Ritual Today. (James Roose-Evans.)  The book noted that a healthy sense of ritual “should pervade a healthy society, and that a big problem now is that we’ve abandoned many rituals that used to help us deal with big change and major trauma.”

The book added that all true ritual “calls for discipline, patience, perseverance, leading to the discovery of the self within.”  More to the point, the book said a pilgrimage – like an 11-and-a-half-day canoe trip on Rideau – “may be described as a ritual on the move.”  Further, the book said through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep,” we can quite often find a sense of our fragility as “mere human beings.”  Finally, the book said such a pilgrimage can be  “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

All of which seems to have applied more to our “Rideau adventure” than the more popular and better-known method of pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago.

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1534674220192For one thing, to avoid the often-contrary prevailing winds, we started getting up at 4:00 a.m.  (Which would be – to most people anyway – a “raw experience” in the form of a lack of the usual number of hours of sleep.  Not to mention having to stumble around in the dark while breaking camp.)  On the other hand, getting up that early led to the picture at left, of one of the benefits of getting up at 4:00 a.m.  Aside from the fact that the water is usually much smoother at that hour – especially important on those “big-ass lakes” in the first half of the trip – it also led to us seeing some beautiful sunrises.  (As seen above left.)

So all in all we spent 11-and-a-half days on the trip, but that included two nights in a nice cabin in Portland Ontario.  And aside from primitive camping the first two nights – “dig a hole and squat” – most of the rest of the nights we camped at the lock stations themselves.  They featured nice level lawns, hot and cold running water in the nearby “washrooms,” and every once in a while a nearby pub or restaurant with hot food and cold beer.

Which helped persuade me that this Rideau trip was “more of a Camino than the Camino.”  That is, last September and October – on Spain’s 450 miles of the Camino de Santiago* – my brother and I kept meeting up with flocks of fellow pilgrims, most greeting us with a too-cheerful “Buen Camino!”  In other words, the Rideau trip was more of a pilgrimage, in the truest sense.  That is, a “journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.”  Or consider the words of John Steinbeck in Travels with Charley.  Speaking of long-distance driving – at least in 1962 – he wrote:

If one has driven a car over many years [one] does not have to think about what to do.  Nearly all the driving technique is deeply buried in the machine-like unconscious.  This being so, a large area of the conscious mind is left free for thinking…  [T]here is left, particularly on very long trips, a large area for day-dreaming or even, God help us, for thought.

Unfortunately, there was precious little of that on the Camino.  (Or for that matter, on any modern long-distance driving trip, what with Sirius, GPS, iPod Shuffles or the new “Sandisks,” not to mention “books on CD,” none of which were available in 1962.)  On the other hand, there was plenty of time – paddling up the Rideau river system – for “God help us, thought.

In my case, on the Rideau I spent plenty of time – along with Steinbeck – thinking about the past:  “And how about the areas of regrets?  If only I had done so-and-so, or had not said such-and-such – my God, the damn thing might not have happened.”

Which is one way of saying there weren’t that many other canoeists or kayakers on the Rideau.  (A necessity for “finding yourself?”)  In fact I can only remember one, the lady kayaker shown below, portaging – carrying her kayak – at the Burritt’s Rapids lock station.  Whereas my brother and I paid extra to take our canoes through the locks, this younger lady chose to do it the “hard way.”  She’d carry her kayak on one trip – from one end of the lock station to the other – then go back and get all her gear, stacked what seemed a mile high on her backpack.

The point being – in case I’m being too subtle – that the dearth of fellow paddlers meant there was plenty of time “for day-dreaming or even, God help us, for thought.”  Or self-discovery.

Which seems to be what makes a pilgrimage a pilgrimage.  (Though it helped to find the Lock 17 Bistro, a short walk from Burritt’s Rapids, where we camped the night of Sunday, August 26.  That is, a hot meal and a cold beer can go a long way in “neutralizing or preventing anxiety…”)

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Image may contain: one or more people, outdoor and nature

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The upper image is courtesy of Rideau Canal – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Poonahmalee, on the Rideau River, near Smith Falls, Ontario – October 1906.”  See also Poonamalie … Rideau Canal.

The image below the upper image – of the “last eight locks” near downtown Ottawa – is courtesy of Rideau Canal – Rideau Canal World Heritage Site, Ontario.

Portions of the text and/or images were gleaned from my companion blog.  The most recent blog post was The “Rideau Adventure” – An Overview.  I also previewed this latest pilgrimage in Next adventure: Paddling the Rideau “Canal,” and “Naked Lady” – on the Rideau Canal?

Re:  “Our’ 450 miles of the Camino de Santiago.”  For more on that pilgrimage see “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited and/or “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.

Re:  Portland, Ontario:  “The Landing on Big Rideau Lake, which is now the community of Portland, lies at the heart of the Rideau Canal System and is central to the history of the canal and to the early development of Canada.  Portland is on Highway 15, midway between Ottawa and Kingston, Ontario.”  See also Portland, Ontario – Wikipedia.

Re: Self-discovery.  See Wikipedia, which noted that a “journey of self-discovery is a popular theme in literature.  It is sometimes used to drive the plot of a novel, play or film.”  Also:

The term “journey of self-discovery” refers to a travel, pilgrimage, or series of events whereby a person attempts to determine how they feel, personally, about spiritual issues or priorities rather than following the opinions of family, friends, neighborhood or peer[s]. The topic of self-discovery has been associated with Zen.  A related term is “finding oneself.”

The quotes from Travels with Charley are from the 1962 Penguin Books edition, at pages 94-95.

Re:  “Neutralizing or preventing anxiety.”  See Ritual – Wikipedia:  “In psychology, the term ritual is sometimes used in a technical sense for a repetitive behavior systematically used by a person to neutralize or prevent anxiety…”  While I take issue with the article’s assertion that all true ritual is marked by strict “invariance,” I would agree with its sense of a pilgrimage as a “rite of passage,” that is, a “ritual event that marks a person’s transition from one status to another.”  Which transition generally involves “three stages:  separation, transition and incorporation.”

The lower image:  My photo of a lady kayaker, portaging at the Burritt’s Rapids lock station.