On Thanksgiving – 2021

If only we could go back to when life was so much better.” (Or is that a Golden Age Fallacy?)

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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 all to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that God wants us all to do even greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.) The fourth – and often overlooked theme – is that Jesus wants us all 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 best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

November 24, 2021 – In case you didn’t realize it, the next major feast day is Thanksgiving, on November 25. As noted in the Thanksgiving link, that national holiday dates back to 1621, when “Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag [Native Americans] shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies.”

On the subject of such feast days, see also Calendar of saints – Wikipedia:

The calendar of saints is the traditional Christian method of organizing a liturgical year by associating each day with one or more saints and referring to the day as the feast day or feast of said saint. The word “feast” in this context does not mean “a large meal, typically a celebratory one,” but instead “an annual religious celebration, a day dedicated to a particular saint.”

The last time I did a post on Thanksgiving was in 2019; Thanksgiving 2019. Which means for some reason I didn’t do such a post in 2020. For one thing there was a disputed election. (Which wasn’t settled until January 6, 2021, and in some minds remains unsettled “even to this day.”) Then there was COVID-19… And a reminder: That 2019 post came before the pandemic hit, so “let’s go back and see what life was like back then, in ‘B.C.'” (Before Covid.)

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For starters, here’s my original caption for the lead painting above: “The Mayflower Pilgrims, leaving behind their homeland – for a ‘whole New Wo-o-o-orld…‘” (The latter referred to the song from “Aladdin.”) And the title and artist of the painting, “‘The Embarkation of the Pilgrims[‘] (1857) by the American painter Robert Walter Weir.”

Back on Thanksgiving 2019 my main – mundane – concerns were 1) just getting back from a 19-day 160-mile hike on the Portuguese Camino, 2) being hired back as a supervisor at the local Keep America Beautiful, and 3) reurning home in the middle of the “High Holy Season.” (The season of college and pro football. See Moses at Rephidim: ‘What if?’)

Back in that time of relative innocence – considering the challenges about to rear their ugly heads – I waxed poetic about how we might “live in harmony with one another,” so that together we might “with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

We’re still waiting for that one to happen.

But as with any great pilgrimage like ours – on a national scale – there’s always a need for a reality check every so often. Like this one about that much-celebrated First Thanksgiving:

102 [Pilgrims] landed in November 1620 [at Plymouth Rock].  Less than half survived the next year.  (To November 1621.)  Of the handful of adult women – 18 in all – only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World…”  The point is this[:  T]he men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.

In other words freedom – like Enlightenment – “isn’t free.” Which should remind us that any true pilgrimage – or any spiritual journey worth its salt – involves a lot of disciplined, persevering work. And which – to me, in 2019 – served as a reminder that whatever “Dark Age”we may have to go through, both during and after “this fine but politically-hectic November of 2019:”

“This too shall pass…

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And so it shall. On another positive note, I just published a new E-book. You can check it out by clicking on Will I REALLY live to 120?: On Turning 70 in 2021 – and Still Thinking “The Best is Yet to Come.” (Written and published under my Nom De Plume, “James B. Ford.”) And that’s not to mention Jesus Christ, Public Defender, published back in January 2019. One theme: “You DON’T have to be a way-too-conservative Fundamentalist to be a real Christian,” and in fact, “you’ll get much more from the Bible if you aren’t.” (See more details at For a book version.)

And speaking of civil wars, the sketch below illustrates one of the first Thanksgivings to be celebrated on a national level in this country. In the meantime, here’s wishing you a…

Happy Thanksgiving – 2021!

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Thanksgiving Day, 1863 – celebrated in the middle of that other American Civil War

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The upper image is courtesy of Pilgrim Fathers – Wikipedia, with a fuller caption, “‘The Embarkation of the Pilgrims’ (1857) … at the Brooklyn Museum in New York City.” And the full link to the song from “Aladdin:” Aladdin – A Whole New World [High Quality] – YouTube.

Re: Moses at Rephidim: ‘What if?’ That post referred to the disappointing Atlanta Falcons 2017 Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, whose quarterback at the time was Tom Brady. Thus causing me to “hate” Brady even more than I did before. But then in the 2020 Super Bowl that same Tom Brady quarterbacked my beloved Tampa Bay Buccaneers to their first Super Bowl since 2002. “He has redeemed himself!” And BTW: I lived in the Tampa Bay area for 50 years, so the Buccaneers are my favorite NFL team. But since I moved to the Atlanta area, the Falcons come in a close second.

Re: “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.” The full link is Jesus Christ, Public Defender: and Other Meditations on the Bible, For Baby-boomers, “Nones” and Other Seekers.

The lower image is courtesy of Thanksgiving U.S. – Wikipedia. Caption: “Sketch by Alfred Waud of Thanksgiving in camp (of General Louis Blenker) during the U.S. Civil War in 1861.” The article noted, “In the middle of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale, proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day,” to be celebrated on the final Thursday of November, 1863. “Since 1863, Thanksgiving has been observed annually” in the U.S.

See also the “Hymn of Thanksgiving” image, captioned:  “‘A Hymn of Thanksgiving’ sheet music cover – November 26, 1899.”

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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.”  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…)

http://www.toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg

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.*”    In 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?

Psalm 137, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem” – 2021

By the waters of Babylon,” where an exiled Remnant finalized the Old Testament…

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November 12, 2021 – It’s over two weeks before the next major Feast Day, Thanksgiving.

Which means I have time to re-visit a post I did in 2019, “If I Forget Thee, O Jerusalem.*” In that post I previewed my three-week pilgrimage to Jerusalem, and in the process talked a lot about n Psalm 137. (And the creation of the Old Testament as we know it.) I was reminded of that post while finishing a book on turning 70 in 2021. (And hoping to live 50 more years, to 120, like Moses, with “eye undimmed and vigor unabated.” See Deuteronomy 34:7.)

I put the boring details about how all that came about in the notes. (How writing the last chapter of my book on Turning 70 in 2021 reminded me of that to 2019 pilgrimage to Israel.) But here’s the point: That in my own version of a “Babylonian exile,” something good eventually came out of what was originally – at the time – something really bad. (Kind of like how the Old Testament as we have it today only came about because of a national catastrophe.)

So here’s more about that April 2019 post. (Where something good happened from “something very bad.”) It referred to a series of video lectures, The World of Biblical Israel | The Great Courses Plus. (Before that site was changed to “Wondrium.”) Lecture 2 was “By the Rivers of Babylon – Exile.” In it Professor Cynthia Chapman focused on Psalm 137 as the story of how the final version of the Old Testament came about. Chapman said Psalm 137 is the mid-point of both years of Jewish history and the Bible itself. Chapman said Psalm 137 came just when the books of the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted. 

In other words, the “Old Testament” as we know it didn’t exist before 586 “B.C.”

That’s when most Judeans were taken from their homeland. They went through a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon, where many of the Remnant died. In further words, before the Exile (circa 600-515 BC) , the Judeans had a lot of uncollected books (or scrolls), but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.” In that captivity they compiled, edited and shaped their collected national stories into a “virtual library,” a library that connected them to their homeland. See also Psalm 137 – Wikipedia:

This period saw … the emergence of the central role of the Torah in Jewish life.  According to many historical-critical scholars, the Torah was redacted during this time, and began to be regarded as the authoritative text for Jews. This period saw their transformation into an ethno-religious group who could survive without a central Temple.

But here’s the point, as it relates to my life: Without all that life-drama I went through ten years ago, I might still be living back in Largo. I might still living in highly congested mid-Pinellas County, Florida, with all its heat and sopping humidity, instead of up in “God’s Country.” (The ATL, or Atlanta Metropolitan Area.) Another happy result is that, for the first time in my life, I’m “comfortable,” spiritually, artistically and financially. But that’s a subject I’ll discuss more in my “2021” book. (And while it’s about turning 70, I’ll title it, “Will I really live to 120?)

A side note: When I publish it – in both an E-book and paperback version – I’ll include a link, For a book version, for your consideration. (As detailed in the Introduction.)

And here’s yet another kicker: St George’s College is Open for Pilgrims!

In 2022 that is.

Saint George’s Cathedral (and) Pilgrim Guest House is where I stayed for two weeks in May 2019. And that means next year I may be able to go back to Jerusalem, hopefully for the “Footsteps of Jesus” course. Another reminder: In 2019 I took the “Palestine of Jesus” course, along with 20 other members of my church. To review, I wrote about that pilgrimage in “On to Jerusalem” (before I left), “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem,” also before I left, and On my first full day in Jerusalem. That one I posted once I got back home, in June 2019.

Which means that I can look forward to the future and now say, with feeling:

Next Year in Jerusalem!

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A late-afternoon view of Jerusalem – with the Dome of the Rock in the foreground…

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The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on Psalm 137. The caption: “‘By the Waters of Babylon,’ painting by Arthur Hackerc. 1888.”

Re: “Thanksgiving.” The link is to a post I did, On Thanksgiving 2019. That post started off: “Things have been hectic since I got back last September 25th [2019] from my 19-day, 160-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. See On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, along with Just got back – Portuguese Camino!” It ended with a note on pilgrimages in general, and how if a truly-meaningful spiritual journey was easy, “anybody could do it!”

Which brought up the topic of “dormancy, darkness and cold,” referring to the Dark Ages, that period of intellectual darkness between the “light of Rome,” up to the rebirth or “Renaissance in the 14th century.” (Not that there was any connection to current events or anything)… Which in turn serves as a reminder that whatever “Dark Age” you may be going through, during this fine but politically-hectic November of 2019: “This too shall pass.”

Another note: That 2019 post came shortly before the current COVID pandemic started, and at a time when Donald Trump seemed to be a shoe-in for re-election.

A note about the post, If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem. The original version in the Bible reads, “O Jerusalem.” I put “Oh Jerusalem” in the 2019 post, but corrected it in the main text here.

Re: “Breaking Point – and broke.” The “breaking point” quote is from Garry Wills’ translation of the Lord’s Prayer. See Garry Wills’ book, What the Gospels Meant, Viking Press (2008), at page 87. The alternate translation is in Part II, “Matthew,” Chapter 5, “Sermon on the Mount:”

Our Father of the heavens, your title be honored … and bring us not to the Breaking Point, but wrest us from the Evil One.    

The usual Lord’s Prayer translation: “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” per Wikipedia. My life tells me “breaking point” is more accurate and appropriate.

Re: Being reminded of the “Jerusalem” post while finishing a book on turning 70 . in 2021. At the beginning of the last chapter, I made a reference to that long-ago post. That chapter (Chapter 9) is about Leaving a legacy, and it in turn is based on a 2015 post that I did in a companion blog. (That post, about leaving a legacy, reminded me of my 2019 trip to Israel.) I wrote – in that companion blog, about my legacy – that in a sense I started thinking about that back in 2009-2010. As explained in the book, that’s when I had to retire early “due to circumstances beyond my control.” In simple terms, I got led to the “Breaking Point – and broke.”

I didn’t enjoy life much back then [in 2009-2010], during the functional equivalent of a Babylonian exile. Among other things I felt abandoned by God. (“Why hast thou forsaken me?”) On the other hand, the results of my exile-and-feeling-abandoned have been good. (Much like the original Exile was “good…” Something very good – the final version of the Old Testament – was the result of something very bad happening to “God’s Chosen People.”)

I originally had all that in the main text, but it was way too confusing, interrupted the flow of the narrative, and distracted from its main point.

Re: St. George’s College, Jerusalem. A continuing education center of the Anglican Communion, its programs “focus on pilgrimage, community, study, and reconciliation. Programs typically last 8, 10 or 14 days, and are open to clergy and laity of all denominations and any faith.” See Wikipedia.

Re: On my first full day in Jerusalem. It included a link to another post, Back from three weeks in Israel.

Re: “Next year in Jerusalem.” The link is to a “Desiring God” article, which read in part: “It seems to me that ‘Next year in Jerusalem!’ is what we Christians ought to wish each other as we mark the closing of another year. It voices far more clearly the sort of happiness we long for than the generic and rather hollow ‘Happy New Year.'” And BTW: Googling the phrase got some 11,800,000 results. Which included Why are you supposed to say “next year in Jerusalem”? – Vox.

The very last words of the traditional seder are “next year in Jerusalem.” As the final moment in the Seder, it’s emotionally significant, and it finishes the Seder’s journey from a reminder of the suffering of the past (and present) to hopes for wholeness and freedom for all in the future.

See also Passover Seder – Wikipedia: The Seder is “a ritual feast that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Passover.” The Seder is based on Exodus 13:8: “You shall tell your child on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.'”

The lower image is courtesy of Jerusalem – Image Results, as featured in the 2019 “On to Jerusalem post. See also Jerusalem – WikipediaNote also that my post-title – “On to Jerusalem!” – alludes to the Civil War’s famous (or infamous) battle cry, “On to Richmond!” See the National Park Service’s The Focal Point of the Civil Warand Richmond in the American Civil War – Wikipedia.

On the Hallowe’en “Triduum” – 2021

As I said last year at this time:Can you say, “Truer words were never spoken?

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I have to say it: I hate Halloween. I’m always glad when it’s over, and we can get to the “fall festival” atmosphere leading up to Thanksgiving. But the Halloween triduum – a religious observance lasting three days – is important in the life of the Church, so I need to talk about it.

I’ve done numerous posts on the subject, and the most recent ones are – from 2018 – On the THREE days of Hallowe’en. After that I did The Halloween Triduum – 2019, just before the Covid hit. That was followed by Halloween 2020 – “Scariest ever?” And a reminder, Halloween 2020 came right before the elections, including the presidential election.

Which means we survived one national nightmare, but since then a number of other nightmares have taken shape, and continue “even to this day.” Or as Job 5:7 says, “man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” (On the other hand, by following the Faith of the Bible, you too can develop “the peace of God which passes all understanding.” Philippians 4:7.)

But we digress. Looking back to last year at this time, we had a Halloween like we’ve never seen, including a rare Blue Moon – also called a “Hunter’s Moon” – and a warning:  CDC says no trick-or-treating amid COVID. But it also included some basic background, including that the word “Hallowe’en” came from the Old English word for “saint,” halig.

The word “halig” became “hallow,” and November 1 is what we now call All Saints Day. But November 1 was originally called “All Hallow’s Day,” and the evening before that day was “All Hallows Evening.” That was then shortened to “All Hallow’s E’en.” Eventually the “All” was dropped and we were left with “Hallow’s E’en,” then shortened to Halloween.

But as noted, this religious observance lasted three days, and – as Wikipedia said – this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead.” That includes “martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.” And the main day of the three was and is November 1. It’s now “All Saints Day,” and was once called All Hallow’s Day, and also referred to as Hallowmas

The thing is, back in the real old days, people thought the barrier between the living and the dead was most open – most permeable – the night of October 31. So they wore masks and costumes to fool the evil spirits. And there was a warning about safe travel.

If you were out traveling from 11:00 p.m. to midnight on All Hallow’s E’en, your had to be very careful. (This was back in the day when candles were pretty much the only light available for travelers.) That is, 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 the candle went out, that was “bad indeed.” (The thought was the candle was blown out by witches…)

Another thing they did was build bonfires. Literally bonefires, “fires in which bones were burned.” (Shown in the photo below.)  The original idea was that evil spirits could be driven away with noise and fire. But that evolved into an additional thought: The “fires were thought to bring comfort to the souls in purgatory and people prayed for them as they held burning straw up high.” Which led to the second of the three days.

November 1, All Saints Day, honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown” who have gone on before us. That referred to “special people in the Church” but the third day of the three honors “the rest of us poor schmucks.” (Those who died but weren’t remembered, except by their friends and family.) So November 2 – All Souls’ Day – honors “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.*’” That is, on the third day of the Triduum – November 2, or All Souls’ Day – observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives. And in many churches, the following Sunday service includes a memorial for all who died in the past year.

There’s more detail in the three posts from 2018 to 2020, including the story behind those carved pumpkins – also called a jack-o’-lantern or Will-o’-the-wisp – which tied in with the strange ghostly light known as ignis fatuus.  (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”) That was the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes.” The light, like a flickering lamp, was 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…

 But don’t worry: We faithful have that “peace of God which passes all understanding.”

Have a Happy Halloween Triduum!

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The upper image is courtesy of Halloween 2020 – Image ResultsThe image accompanies an article, posted on October 24, “Man thinks of ‘the scariest thing’ for his Halloween 2020 decor.” Which led to an article about the “blue moon,” the one that could be seen at this time last year:

Get ready, witches and warlocks. This October 31, there’s a full moon occurring in Taurus, and it’s extra special. This lunar event is called a “blue moon” because it’s the second full moon we’ll experience in the month of October. Not, it won’t actually appear blue, but it’s rare — hence the phrase “once in a blue moon” — and astrologically, very powerful.

Re: The third day of the Halloween Triduum, November 2. Now All Souls’ Day, it was designed to remember the souls of “the dear departed.”

The lower image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article on bonefires.

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On Saints Luke, and James of Jerusalem – 2021

Saint Luke painting the Virgin and Child” – as one of the first icon painters?

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The best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

A month ago – last September 24 – I flew back home from Madrid, after a month in France and Spain. First I flew into Paris on August 25, spent four days there, then joined up with three other family members. From there we took a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port. (In French, “port” means “pass.”) From there, the four of us “hiked over the daunting Pyrenees.” (Seen below.)

For me the adventure ended 17 days later, after hiking 177 miles from Saint-Jean to Burgos. The other three are still hiking, toward Santiago, but meanwhile I had accomplished what I set out to do. (Correct a wimp-out from an earlier hiking adventure. See 2017’s “Hola! Buen Camino!”)

And speaking of wimp-outs – or other mistakes – I meant to publish Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021before I left for Paris. (As kind of a prelude.) But somehow I got caught up in making preparations for the trip, and so ended up posting that “prelude” after the first one about the hike, Just got back from “Camino 2021.” That latter post has the beginnings of the section of the Camino de Santiago I hiked this year. (I’d already hiked and biked the 450-mile part from Pamplona to Santiago, and this year just wanted to finish the Pyrenees portion I wimped-out on in 2017.)

In Just got back I covered the trip’s first four days, in Paris, including a visit to the being-rebuilt Notre-Dame Cathedral. And my companion blog has a new post, Hiking over the Pyrenees, in 2021 – finally! (And an earlier Post-trip post mortem for “Paris – 2021.”) I’ll write more on my just-finished 2021 Camino trip in future posts, but for now it’s time to get back on track.

Specifically, with a Feast Day from last October 18, and one just coming up on October 23. 

October 18 was the Feast Day for St. Luke, and October 23 is the Feast for James, brother of Jesus. I wrote of these two saints in Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal.* There’s more detail on St. Luke in 2014’s St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, or On St. Luke – 2015. (Or – from 2018 – On Luke and the “rich young man.”) And October 23 is the Feast Day for James, brother of Jesus. The latter is one of several “Jameses” in the New Testament…

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.”

See On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men, which clarifies some of that confusion on my part. There I confused the “Brother of Jesus” – whose icon is seen at left – with “St. James the Greater,” whose feast day is July 25. (And among other things, James the Greater is the “patron saint of pilgrims,” especially Camino pilgrims.)

For more enlightenment on this topic see Men Named James in the New Testament – Agape Bible Study, detailed in the notes. More to the point, the James remembered on October 23 is said to be the author of the Epistle of James. Other New Testament books – the Pauline epistles and Acts of the Apostles  – show him as key to the Christians 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.

There’s also confusion on how he died. “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.’” Either way, he was important.

Which is also true of St. Luke.

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 – to Wills and many others – the most beautiful book that ever was.” Which means that Luke’s version of the Jesus story is one to which we should pay special attention.  And especiallto being “humane” and active practitioners of “Christ’s kindness.”

We could use a lot more of that Christian kindness these days…

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The upper 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 reminder: I published my last post, On Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021,” out of order, or in the wrong order. I’d gotten it ready to publish before I left for Paris, but in the rush and uncertainty of packing, forgot to actually publish it.

Re: The lovelies of Portugal. I published that post on October 23, 2019:

It’s been a month since I got back from last September [2019]’s 160-mile, 19-day hike on the Camino de Santiago that runs through Portugal. See Just got back – Portuguese Camino! Which means it’s time to start moving on from that pilgrimage and back to this blog’s main themes.

Re: Men Named James in the New Testament. The 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. Other sources indicate there were as many as six “Jameses” in the Bible.

The lower image is courtesy of Christian Kindness Image – Image Results. See also Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind and tenderhearted to one another.” Not to mention my post, On Oscar Wilde and Psalm 130, on Wilde’s “fall from grace, his being sentenced to hard labor and ultimately writing “De Profundus.” That’s the Latin title of Psalm 130, which begins, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord. “

On Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021”

As I wrote back on August 25, before I left for Paris, I’d “soon be hiking over the Pyrenees

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I said in my last post – on September 30 – that I had “last posted on July 26, 2021, over two months ago.” (See I just got back from “Camino 2021.”) Which made me wonder: Why such a big gap between posts? The answer: There wasn’t supposed to BE such a big gap.

I had prepared and pretty much written the following post, on St. James – Patron saint of Camino pilgrims – and on the Transfiguration of Jesus. (The last major feast day in August before I left for Paris on the 25th.) But while I’d “prepared and pretty much written the post,” I never actually PUBLISHED it. (I was probably too caught up getting ready for the trip, all while wondering if it would actually HAPPEN, because of Covid and its restrictions on travel.)

The month-long trip DID happen, but more to the point, in reviewing this yet-to-be-published post, I thought it sounded pretty good. So even thought it’ll be published out of order and “after the fact,” I’m offering it for your consideration. Later, down in the notes, I’ll make some after-the-fact observations about what actually happened…

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Last July 25, 2021, was the feast day for James, son of Zebedee. He was one of the 12 Apostles, and tradition says he was the first apostle to be martyred, some time around 44 A.D.

He was a son of Zebedee and Salome, and brother of John the Apostle. He is also called James the Greater … to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus.

That’s what I noted back in 2019, in St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage.” Which is fitting, because this year – 2021 – I have another great pilgrimage on tap. On September 1st I’m scheduled to go back to the Camino de Santiago – for the third time – but with some differences… For one thing, this year I’ll be flying into Paris, not Madrid or Lisbon. For another I’ll be hiking as part of a group of four. And finally, this year I’ll hike over the Pyrenees Mountains.

Incidentally, that’s the same section of the Camino where the Martin Sheen character’s son died in the 2010 film, The Way. The central premise of the film is that an old, out of shape Beverly Hills eye doctor “goes to France following the death of his adult son, Daniel, killed in the Pyrenees during a storm while walking the Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James), a Christian pilgrimage route.”

As if that wasn’t enough to give a reasonable person second thoughts about hiking over the Pyrenees, there was a recent news story, Human remains found in Pyrenees confirmed as those of missing hiker Esther Dingley.

“Ms Dingley, 37, had been walking solo in the mountains near the Spanish and French border and was last seen on Nov 22 last year.” The story added that there was “no sign of equipment or clothing in the immediate area … and the details of what happened and where still remain unknown.” Which is scary, but on the other hand, I won’t be hiking alone…

And once I do get over the Pyrenees I’ll be entering Spain – for the third time since 2017. And people in Spain take St. James the Pilgrim – he’s the patron saint of all pilgrims – very seriously. See for example Feast of Saint James the Apostle in Spain – Time and Date:

Many people in Spain celebrate the life and deeds of James, son of Zebedee, on Saint James’ Day (Santiago Apostol), which is on July 25. Saint James was one of Jesus’ first disciples. Some Christians believe that his remains are buried in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

You can read more about this saint in 2014’s “St. James the Greater,” and 2016’s On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts. (And others, listed in the notes.) But there is one thing about a pilgrimage that should be noted: If it’s a good one, you’ll find yourself transformed.

Which brings up the Transfiguration of Jesus.

That’s the New Testament episode where Jesus is “transfigured and becomes radiant in glory upon a mountain.” (See the connection?) I’ve written about this event in Transfiguration – 2020, The Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016, and in 2015, Transfiguration – The Greatest Miracle in the World. And that feast day was last August 6.

The 2020 post led off with a photo of an empty interstate, looking to a sky-scrapered city skyline, captioned, “The Coronavirus – A ‘Blessing In Disguise For Humanity,’ and maybe a metamorphosis?” Along with a note that we were “now in Week 21 of the COVID-19 pandemic.” (We’re now in week 75 or so, per my calculations.*) The key point: That “in the current plague we are surely going through a metamorphosis.” Or a change in circumstance that could seem, “to many, to have occurred by supernatural means.”

In other words, maybe God was and is trying to tell us something.

In further words, in the Transfiguration both Jesus and His disciples had to go through “a pivotal moment.” A moment in which Jesus met with Moses and Elijah, but which was also terrifying to Peter. (See Mark 9:6 “For they were all so terrified that Peter did not know what else to say.”) But despite Peter’s terror, this was a point “where human nature meets God: the meeting place for the temporal and the eternal, with Jesus himself as the connecting point.”

And you could say the same thing about COVID-19. It too is terrifying, but it could also be another moment “where human nature meets God.” It could be a moment where we turn on each other and start “Finger-Pointing,” or it could be a moment where we work together and overcome the challenge in the way God wants us to. And it could just be – if we play our cards right – where we can reconnect with Jesus in a way we couldn’t have before.

Unfortunately, there are signs that in this crisis we are being “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” (In other words, we seem to be ending up like Belshazzar, in Daniel, Chapter 5.) Or we could be “transformed.” And to continue that thought, to be transfigured – as Jesus was – is to experience a change in form or appearance, that is, a metamorphosis.

The term is also defined as to experience an exalting, glorifying or spiritual change. And one example of such a metamorphosis is the “transformation of a maggot into an adult fly.” Or for a better example, we could change from a caterpillar into a butterfly. So – in our journey through the present Covid crisis – do we want to remain maggots or get turned into butterflies? (To mix a few metaphors.) And such transformation is pretty much what the Faith is all about.

See for example Bible Verses about Transformed into His Likeness, which includes 2d Corinthians 3:18, which says that we true Christians “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” Or Philippians 3:21, which talks of the power of Jesus, “who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body.” Or 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

Which is also what could happen to those who go on a pilgrimage. (Like hiking over the Pyrenees part of the Camino de Santiago?) In such a journey “a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life.”

Or as it says in Psalm 84:5, “Happy are the people whose strength is in you! whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way.” So maybe when I get back I’ll find that we Americans are no longer “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” (As shown below.) Maybe the country will experience such a transfiguration that God will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant(s)!”

It COULD happen…

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Well, it didn’t happen. It seems our country is still “weighed in the balances and found wanting.” And a lot of it has to do with Facebook and the amount of tribal political warfare that goes on there. So maybe that six-hour Facebook outage last October 4 was a sign from God. Instead of saying “well done, good and faithful servant(s),” He might have been telling us, “Stop obsessing with Facebook, and stop putting all that garbage in it!”

(Of course, I’m just guessing, you understand…*)

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The upper image is courtesy of Camino Hiking Over Pyrenees – Image Results. With a page and caption, “The walk to Roncesvalles, Spain, from St Jean Pied de Port took us over the Pyrenees. Blessed with good weather…”

Re: 2016’s On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts. The “sluts” part of the post noted that the word had a different meaning for Robert Louis Stevenson in 1879, when he published Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes. (For more on the book see also the prior post, On donkey travel – and sluts.) Back then “slut meant roughly what one sense of slattern means today: a slovenly, untidy woman or girl.”  It could also refer to a kitchen maid.

Re: Weeks of Covid. As of Monday, October 11, 2021, we are now in the 83d full week of Covid, 20 months and three weeks, according to my calculations. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020. To me, “the pandemic hit full swing – the ‘stuff really hit the fan’ – back on Thursday, March 12,” when the ACC basketball tournament got cancelled, along with other major sports. “So my definition of the ‘First Full Week of the Covid-19 Pandemic’ has it starting on Sunday, March 15 and ending on Saturday the 21st.”

The Psalm 84:5 translation is from my mother’s Book of Common Prayer, “Proposed,” and published in 1977. (As certified by Charles Mortimer Guilbert.) My mother died in 1984, and for a time it was used by my late wife Karen, who died in 2006. I now use it on a daily basis, for the psalms in each day’s set of Daily Office Readings. (Currently Year One, Volume 2.)

The lower image is courtesy of the Belshazzar link to the Wikipedia article. The caption: “RembrandtBelshazzar’s Feast, 1635, (National Gallery, London). The message is written in vertical lines starting at the top right corner, with ‘upharsin’ taking two lines.”

And the quote “just guessing, you understand,” came from She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) Script – TV & Movie Transcripts. As spoken by Ben Johnson as Sergeant Tyree, talking to John Wayne as Captain Nathan Brittles. Image courtesy of She Wore A Yellow Ribbon – Image Results. (My other favorite Sgt. Tyree quote is, “That ain’t my department, sir!”

I just got back from “Camino 2021…”

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I last posted on July 26, 2021, over two months ago.* The reason for the lapse? I was preparing for a month-long overseas adventure. The plan was to fly first into Paris, and from there take a train down to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, in southwest France. And all during that time I had my doubts that the proposed trip would actually occur, because of Covid….

But it did occur, and the result was a month-long, 170 mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. And that trip included a hike over the daunting Pyrenees mountains, seen at left.

The trip started with a flight to Paris on August 25. It ended last Friday night, September 24, with a butt-sore 13-hour flight from Madrid back home to Atlanta. (With a nightmare layover in Amsterdam.*) Which – with six time-zone changes – meant 26 hours straight without sleep. (Can you say “body-clock bedraggling?”) In between, I accomplished what I set out to do.

Like I said, all of this was part of a month-long trip, first to Paris and then over the Pyrenees. The main feature was a month-long, 170-mile hike on the Camino de Santiago. The push for this adventure came after a similar one in 2017, noted in “Hola! Buen Camino!” That post began: “My brother and I arrived in Santiago de Compostela on Thursday, October 12[, 2017]. This was after hiking – and biking – the Camino de Santiago, as shown in the map above. “

There was only one problem in 2017. I hadn’t hiked over the Pyrenees, like my brother Tom, and it’s bothered me ever since. So why didn’t I hike over the Pyrenees in 2017? Because the year before, 2016, Tom and I – along with his son, my nephew – had hiked the Chilkoot Trail. They called that “the meanest 33 miles in history,” and I found out why.*

One result was that for 2017 I’d had quite enough of mountain hiking. So while Tom flew into Paris and hiked over the Pyrenees hike – and had a miserable time by the way – I flew into Madrid and met up with him in Pamplona. That still left 450 miles of hiking to get to Santiago. (With biking as well for the last 200 miles; we started running out of time.)

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I’ll be writing more on my 2021 Camino pilgrimage in future posts, but for now I’ll focus on the first four days. I spent those four days in Paris, which I visited for the first time since 1979.

One place in Paris I visited back in 1979 was the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris. And – viewed from the inside – that visit was literally awesome. But given the Notre-Dame de Paris fire in 2019, I was curious to see how things had changed, how the repairs and renovation were going.

I took the picture at right on Saturday, August 28, 2021, during a walk around the entire complex. There were lots of other people around, checking out the progress, or just standing and looking just outside the chain-link fencing on the sides and back. I was pleasantly surprised at the progress, but it’s definitely a work in progress. (For a more detailed and comprehensive review see Notre Dame Rebuild Progress | 2021 Updates.)

For more on other events in those first four days, see my other blog’s Post-trip post mortem for “Paris – 2021.” But here’s a spoiler alert, about a highlight of the trip, in Madrid: I ended up having a beer (or maybe two) at the Plaza de Jesús.* Which is a very good place to end up…

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On a related note, September 2021 included “feasts” for Holy Cross Day (9/14), St. Matthew, Apostle (9/21), and St. Michael and All Angels (9/29). For more on those “holy-days” see the notes, with summaries and links to past posts. But for now it’s enough to say yet again:

There’s no place like home!

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Re: “I last posted on July 26, 2021, over two months ago.” As noted in Saint James the Pilgrim – and “Transfiguration 2021,” that wasn’t exactly true. I had “prepared and pretty much written” the St. James/Transfiguration post before I left, but never actually published it. Which is why that post and this one were published “out of order and ‘after the fact.'” But with the next post I’ll get things back in order. Probably on my experiences actually hiking over the Pyrenees and into Pamplona, and somehow tying all that in to the next major feast day, for St. Luke. (Written and updated Monday, October 11, 2021.) For an appetizer, see 2014’s On St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, and – from October 2019 and its happier times – On Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal.

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The upper image is courtesy of Camino de Santiago 800 PROJECT: Map of the Routesilverarrow18.blogspot.com.  

The “Pyrenees” image is courtesy of Pyrenees Mountains – Image Results.

Re: Nightmare in Amsterdam. One big nightmare factor was having to go through Dutch Customs, with only two staffers for our huge plane-load of people, and even though I had gone through security in Madrid, and was simply changing from one plane to another.

Re: The Chilkoot. See my companion blog, Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!” Which included this: The ‘Chilkoot Trail‘ isn’t really a trail, it’s just ‘one big pile of &%#@ rocks after another!!!‘”

Re: Plaza de Jesús. See Wikipedia, la enciclopedia libre, which translated notes this “Jesus Square” or “Place of Jesus” is in the Cortes district, and begins on Calle Lope de Vega. For the last two days of the trip, after I left Burgos, I got a room at the Artistic B&B, at Calle Lope de Vega 11. (Just up the street.) Wikipedia noted that the plaza is home to several taverns, “in Madrid rancid tradition:”

This is a contrast that makes the queues of pilgrims, pious women and devotees of the Christ of Medinaceli, much appreciated, frequently mix in the square with nomadic groups of celebrators, tourists and subjects of the Madrid aperitif.

I’m not sure what all that means, but I enjoyed my two nights at the plaza. I’d stop there after a day of doing touristy stuff like visiting the Prado and the Museo Reina Sofia – home of Picasso’s “Guernica” – or strolling through the Real Jardín Botánico. The Wikipedia article has a good closeup of the tile “plaza sign.” In my picture, at left, there is a street – or plaza – sign, in blue, just above the head of the tall man in the foreground. Just above that is the tile of the representation of Jesus, the one you can see better in the Wikipedia article.

Re: September feast days I missed hiking the Camino. For a catch-all summary of those three feast days, see 2018’s On Holy Cross, Matthew, and Michael – “Archangel” As for summaries, “Holy Cross Day is one of several Feasts of the Cross, all of which ‘commemorate the cross used in the crucifixion of Jesus.'” For still more on St. Matthew see St. Matthew and “Cinderella.” It noted that “the love Jesus had for all mankind extended even to tax collectors.” (Matthew was a tax collector, in Israel “hated above all men as a merciless leech who would take the shirt off a dying child.”) As far as St. Michael goes, he is shown in the painting, “Archangel Michael reaching to save souls in purgatory.” To which I said:Hey, I’ll take all the help I can get!

The lower image is courtesy of There‘s No Place Like Home- Image Results. See also No Place Like Home – Wikipedia, which noted that – aside from the famous line in the movie Wizard of Oz – the phrase may also refer to “the last line of the 1822 song ‘Home! Sweet Home!,’ words by John Howard Payne and music by Sir Henry Bishop; the source of inspiration for the other references here: ‘Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home,’” and/or “‘(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays,’ a 1954 Christmas song most famously sung by Perry Como.”  For a “live” version, see also There’s No Place Like Home – YouTube.

On “Saint” Mary Magdalene – 2021

St. Mary of Magdala: Despite a bad reputation, she is the “Apostle to the Apostles…”

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Last Thursday, July 22, was the Feast Day for Mary from Magdala. She is a saint, and the only reason I put the word in quotes is that she ended up a saint despite the best efforts of jealous male disciples. (Because she showed more courage than they did when it counted.)

And that “showing more courage” seems to be why she got the reputation for a “sordid past.” On the other hand, there’s the opinion of St. Augustine, who referred to her as the “Apostle to the Apostles.” On that note see also Mary of Magdala | FutureChurch:

Mary of Magdala is perhaps the most maligned and misunderstood figure in early Christianity… Since the fourth century, she has been portrayed as a prostitute and public sinner… Paintings [of her], some little more than pious pornography, reinforce the mistaken belief that sexuality, especially female sexuality, is shameful, sinful, and worthy of repentance. Yet the actual biblical account of Mary of Magdala paints a far different portrait than that of the bare-breasted reformed harlot of Renaissance art.

The one indisputable fact seems to be that Mary Magdalene was both the first person to see the empty tomb of Jesus, and one of the first – if not the first – to see the risen Jesus. 

As for the Crucifixion itself, only one Gospel had a male disciple at the scene, John. (In “his*” Gospel, Ch. 19. Or see Who Was Present at the Cross?) But many women were there, as noted in Mark 15:40: “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.”

And John, Chapter 20 tells the full story of Mary Magdalene being both the first to see the empty tomb and the first to see the Risen Jesus, as shown in the painting below.

For starters, see John 20:1: “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.” She went to tell Peter and John, who checked the tomb, then “went back to where they were staying.” But Mary – faithful Mary, of the lousy reputation – stayed, as noted in John 20:11-18.  She saw two angels, then turned to see another man she took to be a caretaker:

Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”  Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord;” and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Which is why this Mary – from Magdala – is rightly known as the “Apostle to the Apostles.”

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“The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen…”

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I gleaned the text and two illustrations from past posts: Mary Magdalene, “Apostle to the Apostles” (2015), Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints (2017), Mary Magdalene, and “conserving talents…” (2018), Mary Magdalene – and all those “rules and regulations…” (2019), and from last year at this time, Mary Magdalene, 2020 – and Week 19 of “the Covid.”

More specifically, the lower image is courtesy of Rembrandt – The Risen Christ. The full caption: “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen, by Rembrandt (1638).” And speaking of “racy,” Titian did two versions of Mary. For the “racy” (1533) version see Penitent Magdalene (Titian, 1533) – Wikipedia.

The Penitent Magdalene is a 1565 oil painting by Titian of saint Mary Magdalene, now in the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.  Unlike his 1533 version of the same subject, Titian has covered Mary’s nudity and introduced a vase, an open book and a skull as a memento mori.  Its coloring is more mature than the earlier work, using colors harmoni[z]ing with character.  In the background the sky is bathed in the rays of the setting sun, with a dark rock contrasting with the brightly lit figure of Mary.

On Garry Wills and “What Jesus (REALLY) Meant…”

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison – would a Close-minded Christian follow Matthew 25:36 like this?

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Two months ago, on a Tuesday morning, I was driving to the gym. On the way in I listened – again – to an audio version of the book What Jesus Meant, by Garry Wills. (I had listened to it, repeatedly, on CDs from the local library, but then finally broke down and bought the complete 4-CD set. That’s because I plan to keep listening to it, over and over again, “into the future.”)

That long-ago morning I heard a favorite section of Wills’ book. It was about a favorite topic: Close-minded people who call themselves Christian, but have little or no concept of what The Faith is all about. Like what that great philosopher Johnny Cash once said:

I wear the black for those who never read,
Or listened to the words that Jesus said,
About the road to happiness through love and charity,
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me.

(See Johnny Cash – Man in black with lyrics – YouTube.) But getting back to What Jesus (Really) Meant. The section of the book that I really like talks about how some modern-day Christians selectively interpret the Bible to suit their own conservative political agenda.

Like the hateful claim that God hates fags!

Garry Wills provided a perfect answer to such haters. (Who are certainly not Christian. And that answer came at pages 34 and 35 of the 2006 Penguin Books edition.) Unfortunately Wills wasn’t sure of the source of the clever riposte. Then too it was quite a long passage, so I wasn’t crazy about having to type it all out myself. But fortunately I finally found a transcript that I could cut-and-paste into this post. It’s from It’s the Law, Kid – Jane Tawel.

The anonymous author – who Tawel quoted – first gave a tongue-in-cheek “thank you” to a man who cited Leviticus 18:22 as proof that homosexuality was a sin. But he was curious about some other passages from Exodus and Leviticus. Mostly he was curious about how the people who violated those passages should be killed.

In one example he cited Exodus 35:2, which says “Whoever does any work” on Sunday, the Sabbath, “is to be put to death.” Which led to the question: “Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?” Then came a question about Leviticus 24:10-16. (Blasphemer put to death.) “My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19,” as does his wife. (For wearing clothes made out of two different kinds of thread.) “He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot.” Which led to the question: Was it necessary to get the whole town together to stone them both to death? “Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair?”

Then came questions about social protocol. For example, he cited Leviticus 15:19-24, which prohibits any contact – “period” – with a woman during her menstrual period. “The problem is: how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.” (Indeed.) And finally, Exodus 21:7 allows a man to sell his daughter into slavery. “I would like to sell my daughter into slavery… In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?”

You can see the full set of tongue-in-cheek questions in the notes, but here’s the point. Many so-called Christians are guilty of selective perception. That’s the process by which “individuals perceive what they want to in media messages while ignoring opposing viewpoints.”

In other words, some so-called Christians use selective interpretation to promote an “earthly” political agenda. But Jesus was above politics, much like Johnny Cash, and much like Billy Graham became in his later years.* (So much so that some “conservative Christians” called him Antichrist. See for example BILLY GRAHAM: SERVANT OF CHRIST OR OF ANTICHRIST.)

Which is just another way of saying that “Christianity has been twisted and warped to such an extent that not even Jesus would recognize it now.” And the main reason Jesus wouldn’t recognize Christianity today – according to Wills and others (including Yours Truly) – is the way it’s been warped and perverted. So much so that it’s been used to promote so much hate.

But for Johnny Cash, Billy Graham and Garry Wills, Jesus was all about love. And that’s not to mention the Apostle Paul, who gave us 1st Corinthians 13:4-7….

The main theme of Wills’ book is that Jesus was “radical” in his love for all people. (Even – gasp – for liberals! And for that matter, even for those people who should know better but are a real pain in the ass.)

Wills noted that Jesus spent little time with the well-to-do, and seemed to prefer the company of whores, lepers and outcasts of all types. As Wills put it, Jesus “walks through social barriers and taboos as if they were cobwebs.” Which is pretty much the Christian love of Johnny Cash.

See Johnny Cash’s Religion and Political Views | Hollowverse, whose author wrote, “I like to think that Johnny was above politics and more about people and peace and happiness and cooperation.” Or as Cash’s daughter Rosanne said, her father “didn’t care where you stood politically.” He could “love all stripes, and that’s why all stripes claim him.” Even people in prison.

Which is a pretty radical proposition indeed. (Can you say great minds think alike?)

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And by the way, the next major feast day – after the last June 24 and June 29 days for John the Baptist and Peter and Paul – is on July 22, 2021, for Saint Mary Magdalene.

Something (better) to look forward to…

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The upper image is courtesy of Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison – Image Results. Note that my original caption asked whether “a Conservative Christian would follow Matthew 25:36″ as Johnny Cash did at Folsom Prison. But to be a bit less confrontational I changed the wording to “Close-minded Christian,” since it is possible that some Conservative Christians are open-minded, while it is also possible that some Liberal Christians are close-minded.

And before I get into extensive notes further explaining the main text, the lower image is courtesy of wiki/Penitent_Magdalene_(Titian,_1565).

And note the full “God hates fags” link, Is there any truth to the ‘God hates fags’ slogan? Which noted in part that “the Bible tells us that those who pervert the Gospel and teach it falsely are ‘anathema’ which means ‘eternally condemned’ (Galatians 1:8-9). Jesus was called a ‘friend of sinners’ but He saved His words of condemnation for the religious leaders of Israel whose teaching was making it impossible for people to know, trust, and follow God (Matthew 23:1-36). If there’s anybody that God hates, it’s false teachers.” See also Westboro Baptist Church – Wikipedia, and Fred Phelps – Wikipedia.

Re: Billy Graham in his later years. See A Soldier of Christ – “and BEYOND!” From October 2018, based on my 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 noted that Graham eventually grew in grace so much – as he got older – 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.’” 

The quote “Christianity has been twisted and warped” is from Nonfiction Book Review: What Jesus Meant by Garry Wills.

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At any rate, the “image results” photo atop the page came with an article, The REAL Story Behind Johnny Cash & Folsom Prison Blues. The link in the captionJohnny Cash … at Folsom Prison – added this little bit of history:

In the midst of depression and a steep decline in his musical career, legendary country singer Johnny Cash arrives to play for inmates at California’s Folsom Prison on January 13, 1968. The concert and the subsequent live album launched him back into the charts and re-defined his career.

So maybe that “Jesus Guy” knew what He was talking about. (In other words, “Maybe there’s an object lesson there?”) As to the caption itself, the full text of Matthew 25:36 reads, “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Also Hebrews 13:3, “Remember those in prison as if you were bound with them, and those who are mistreated as if you were suffering with them,” and Matthew 25:39-40, “Then those ‘sheep’ are going to say, ‘Master, what are you talking about? When did we ever see you hungry and feed you, thirsty and give you a drink? And when did we ever see you sick or in prison and come to you?’ Then the King will say, ‘I’m telling the solemn truth: Whenever you did one of these things to someone overlooked or ignored, that was me – you did it to me.’”

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And here’s more information on Will’s book and that “favorite section. See What Jesus Meant: Wills, Garry: 9780143038801: Amazon.com: Books. See also Garry Wills – Wikipedia, about the “American author, journalist, and historian [b. 1934], specializing in American history, politics, and religion, especially the history of the Catholic Church. He won a Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction in 1993.

The following is the full section, courtesy of the “Tawel” blog, which began by saying not to read the Bible if you don’t want to contemplate mystery, confront hypocrisy or get a sense of “God’s humorous humbling of us.” Ms. Tawel then provided a complete transcript:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination – end of debate.  I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements of God’s laws and how to follow them.

  1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians.  Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Canadians?
  2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
  3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is: how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
  4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor to the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them.  Should I smite them?
  5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?
  6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination (Lev. 11;10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this? Are there degrees of abomination?
  7. Leviticus 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
  8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Leviticus 19:27. How should they die?
  9. I know from Leviticus 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
  10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Leviticus 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton-polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev. 24:10-16)? Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev. 20:14)?

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.  Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging (34-35 Garry Wills, What Jesus Meant. New York: Penguin, 2006).

On “John T. Baptist,” Peter and Paul – 2021

Bucking traditionZechariah (prophet and father of “the Baptist”) wrote, “My son’s name is John…”

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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 best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

Last Thursday, June 24, was the feast day recalling the Birth (Nativity) of St. John, the Baptist.

Next Tuesday, June 29, is the feast day for remembering St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles. Turning to the earlier day, John the Baptist was the prophet “who foretold the coming of the Messiah in the person of Jesus, whom he later baptised.” The Bible readings are Isaiah 40:1-11Psalm 85Acts 13:14b-26, and Luke 1:57-80. Luke tells how Elizabeth – the cousin of Mary (mother of Jesus) – came to be a mother, and how her husband got struck dumb.

The time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced…  [T]hey were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.” Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John…”

For more on John see The Nativity of John the Baptist, a post from June 2015. That post includes an image and text about John falling victim to Salome. (Illustrated at left.)

The text from Mark 6, verses 14-29 indicates that “Salome had danced so well for King Herod that he swore he would grant her any request. Her mother, Herodias, who sought revenge on John the Baptist, persuaded Salome to ask for his head.” 

On another note, John represents “Law, not Grace. Among men born of woman … he has no superior. But anyone who has been born anew in the kingdom of God has something better than what John symbolizes.” That something better is Jesus, who represents grace. (As in “My grace is all you need.”)

Turning to the other feast day, June 29 is the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, who “died together.*” It honors “the martyrdom in Rome of the apostles Saint Peter and Saint Paul.” Unfortunately the Bible doesn’t give details about the deaths of Peter or Paul, “or indeed any of the Apostles except for James the son of Zebedee.”  (See e.g. Acts 12:2.)  But early tradition said that they were martyred at Rome, at the command of the Emperor, and were buried there:

As a Roman citizen, Paul would probably have been beheaded with a sword. It is said of Peter that he was crucified head downward[. And thus as St. Augustine wrote,] “even though they suffered on different days, they were as one. Peter went first, and Paul followed. And so we celebrate this day made holy for us by the apostles’ blood…”

See John the Baptist, Peter and Paul – 2016, which described one of the disputes between Peter and Paul. This one came to a head with the Incident at Antioch. And of that dispute Wikipedia said, “The final outcome of the incident remains uncertain resulting in several Christian views of the Old Covenant to this day.” But briefly, that question involved how much of the Old Testament “law” was to be binding on Christians. (A question – including that of a requirement of male circumcision – which remains “even to this day.”

So to me the main point of the Feast of Peter and Paul – togther – is that it’s okay to have a difference of opinion between Christians. Or even to “squabble” from time to time. And for that matter, that it’s okay to argue with God too, if and as necessary. (As long as you pay the proper respect, you could end up a lot stronger, “spiritually and otherwise.”)

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“Scholars Disputing” – a painting of Peter and Paul managing to work together… 

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As indicated in the main text, this post was gleaned from prior posts, The Nativity of John the Baptist (2915), and John the Baptist, Peter and Paul – 2016.

The upper image is courtesy of the link – Benedictus (Song of Zechariah) – in the Wikipedia article, Nativity of St. John the Baptist.  The caption:  “Detail of Zechariah writing down the name of his son (Domenico Ghirlandaio, 15th century, Tornabuoni ChapelItaly).”

Re: “My grace is all you need.” 2 Corinthians 12:9. For more on Peter and Paul, including the movement of their “remains,” see Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”

Re: Peter and Paul, who “died together.” See On Peter, Paul – and other “relics:”

On 29 June we commemorate the martyrdoms of both apostles. The date is the anniversary of a day around 258, under the Valerian Persecution, when what were believed to be the remains of the two apostles were both moved temporarily to prevent them from falling into the hands of the persecutors.

 In other words, the June 29 feast day is an ancient celebration, as “the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics.” Note too that the “Valerian Persecution” mentioned, of 258, involved the movement of the remains of Peter and Paul – the “relics” – not the date of their deaths. (They would have to have been over 200 years old.)

Re: Arguing with God. See the post, On arguing with God, which said that maybe – just maybe – we are supposed to “argue with God,” or “wrestle with God,” or even “wrestle with the idea of God.” Maybe, just maybe, that’s how we get spiritually stronger, by “resistance training” rather than passively accepting anything and everything in the Bible, without question or questioning.

The lower image is courtesy of Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon … (web gallery of art.)  The explanatory section added that the most likely explanation of the painting is that it “represents St Peter and St Paul in conversation,” or even Argument:

Rembrandt omits the attributes by which the two apostles were traditionally identified, he relies only on their physical characteristics … and on what they are seen to be doing, that is earnestly discussing a text which the one (St Peter) is explaining to the other.

For other interpretations and/or images, see also canvasreplicas.com/Rembrandt, and Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn.

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For more on the blog and its main themes, see the notes to Pink Floyd – and Pentecost Sunday, 2021.

On D-Day and St. Barnabas – 2021

A reminder of this past June 6: Saint Augustine was an early advocate of the Just war theory...

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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 best way to live abundantly and do greater miracles than Jesus is: Read, study and apply the Bible with an open mind. For more see the notes or – to expand your mind – see the Intro.

In the meantime:

I just got back from a lightning, one-week mini-vacation. First to Rockville Maryland – for my grandson’s wedding – then on to Pigeon Forge Tennessee for a family get-together. (Including a day-visit to Dollywood, illustrated at left.)

I got back home late last Thursday (6/10/21), and over the long Recuperation Weekend that followed, I checked my blogs. My last post on this blog – “Pink Floyd – and Pentecost Sunday, 2021” – came back on May 29, 2021. So it’s about time another post on this Blog, but lucky me, just last June 11 was the Feast Day for St. Barnabas. And five days before that we – or some of us – remembered D-Day, back during World War II. Which is a reminder that life isn’t always a bowl of cherries.* Or put another way, we are called to vigor – spiritual discipline – not comfort. (See About the Blog, above.)

There’s more on that below, but first a word about St. Barnabas.

The Bible first mentions Barnabas in Acts 4:36:  “Joseph, a Levite, born in Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (son of encouragement), sold a field he owned, brought the money, and turned it over to the apostles.”  And Barnabas the Apostle – Justus added that even after Paul’s Damascus Road experience, most Christians in Jerusalem “wanted nothing to do with him. They had known him as a persecutor and an enemy of the Church. But Barnabas was willing to give him a second chance.” (Which is pretty much what Jesus is all about.)

To sum up, if it hadn’t been for Barnabas’ willingness to give Paul a second chance – Paul, the formerly zealous persecutor of the early Church – he might never have become Christianity’s most important early convert, if not the “Founder of Christianity.*”

But what’s all this about “just war” and our annual remembrance of June 6 as D-Day, a key turning point in World War II? Just that the lessons our American armed forces learned in that war can teach us a valuable lesson today about the better way to read and study the Bible.

That is, American armed forces succeeded on D-Day – and contributed greatly in winning World War II – because of our native INGENUITY. (That is, because as Americans we are inherently creative and constantly ask questions.) We constantly look for better ways of doing things. On the other hand there are some “Bible-thumpers” who look at the Faith of the Bible as a way of “trying to create a culture that rewards conformism and stifles creativity.” 

In the same way, one theme of this blog is that the very same question-asking, probing method of Bible study is far better for both an individual reader and our society as a whole. It’s far better than just saying, “Oh, I’ll take everything that slick-haired televangelist says at face value!

My point is that Bible reading should be an adventure. It should help us reach our full potential, as individuals and as a nation. It should help us become happier, more creative and able to find better ways of living lives of abundance. And that’s as opposed to the concept of “sin,” and how some of those same Bible-thumpers seem to relish making other people feel guilty.

On that note see On June 6, 2016 and also On D-Day and confession:

Maybe that’s what the Bible and/or the church concepts of sin and confession are all about… When we “sin” we simply fall short of our goals; we “miss the target.” When we “confess,” we simply admit to ourselves how far short of the target we were. And maybe the purpose of all this is not to make people feel guilty all the time… [M]aybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are tools to help us get closer to the target “next time out,” even if we know we can never become “perfect.”

Also on that note see On sin and cybernetics, from 2014, which added this: “Maybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us realize the purpose Jesus had for us, to wit: To ‘live life in all its abundance.’” (See John 10:10, above.)

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You can’t hit the target without “negative feedback…”

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The upper image is courtesy of Just war theory – Wikipedia: “The purpose of the doctrine is to ensure that a war is morally justifiable through a series of criteria, all of which must be met in order for a war to be considered just.” For more information google “christianity and just war theory.”

Re: Life as a bowl of cherries. (Or not.) See Life is just a bowl of cherries – Idioms by The Free Dictionary. Originally meaning everything was great, the “slangy phrase, often used ironically, gained currency as the title of a song by Ray Henderson,” performed by Ethel Merman in the in the Scandals of 1931. “Today it is nearly always used ironically…”

Re: Vigor, not comfort. From Evelyn Underhill’s book Practical Mysticism:

Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement. . .  Do not suppose from this that your new career [as a Christian] is to be perpetually supported by agreeable spiritual contacts, or occupy itself in the mild contemplation of the great world through which you move.  True, it is said of the Shepherd that he carries the lambs in his bosom;  but the sheep are expected to walk, and to put up with the bunts and blunders of the flock.  It is to vigour rather than comfort that you are called.

Re: The Apostle Paul as a “Founder of Christianity.” A search “st paul founder of christianity” leads to wildly divergent opinions. But see also A brief guide to the Apostle Paul, and why he is so important.

A final note: Most of this post was gleaned from On St. Barnabas and On St. Barnabus’ Day, 2015. The lower (“arrow”) image is courtesy of “releasetheape.com … 2012/12/arrow-target1-890×556.png.

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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-on phrase, “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 mindSee the Wikipedia article, which talks about its opposite:

…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

For more on the blog and its main themes, see the notes to Pink Floyd – and Pentecost Sunday, 2021.