Happy “Sunday of Many Names!”

The Apostle Thomas, in his later years – in India? – after he finally “overcome his doubts…”

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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 last posted on Palm Sunday, March 28. In that post I looked ahead to Easter Sunday, April 4. (See On “Zen in the Art of College Football,” featuring the thought at left.) This post will revisit the Sunday after Easter, to wit: The “Sunday of Many Names.”

You can see one original at On “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017, which notes that today is known as: 1) The Second Sunday of Easter, 2) Low Sunday, 3) Doubting Thomas Sunday, 4) the “Octave of Easter,” and finally 5) “Quasimodo Sunday.” That last is from the Latin translation of First Peter 2:2, “Quasi modo geniti infantes,” as explained below. 

For starters, today is officially the Second Sunday of Easter. Note the “of,” rather than “after.” That’s because Easter is “not just one day, but an entire season.” It’s a full season of 50 days – called Eastertide, “spanning from Easter Sunday to Pentecost Sunday.”

But today is also known – and in many churches is better known – as Low Sunday. That’s mostly because church attendance falls off so drastically that first Sunday “after.” (Compared with the high attendance of Easter Day itself…)

But you can also – as noted – call this day the “Sunday of Many Names.” For example, it’s known as “Doubting Thomas Sunday” … because the Gospel lesson always tells the story of the disciple Thomas. (See e.g. John 20:19-31, “which recounts the story of Christ appearing to the Apostle Thomas in order to dispel the latter’s doubt about the Resurrection.”  Which made him in essence the original – the prototype – “Doubting Thomas.”)

And today is known as the Octave of Easter. (In this case the Octave in question is the eight-day period “in Eastertide that starts on Easter Sunday and runs until the Sunday following Easter.”) And finally, it’s known as “Quasimodo Sunday.” But that’s not because of Quasimodo, the guy – shown at right – who is better known as the “Hunchback of Notre Dame:”

That name comes from the Latin translation of the beginning of First Peter 2:2. (A traditional “introit” used in churches this day.) First Peter 2:2 begins – in English and depending on the translation – “As newborn babes, desire the rational milk without guile…” (Or translated as, “pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation.”) But in Latin the verse reads:  “Quasi modo geniti infantes…” Literally, “quasi modo means ‘as if in [this] manner.’”

So, since “geniti” translates as “newborn” and the translation of “infantes” seems self-evident, the “quasi modo” in question roughly translates, “As if in the manner” (of newborn babes)… 

The Coffman Commentaries on the Bible provides some background on this verse. in the King James version the verse reads, “as newborn babes, long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation:”

Paul used this same figure in 1 Corinthians 3:2; but Peter here, using the same figure, stresses, not the contrasting diet of infants and adults, but the appetite which all Christians should have in order to grow. All Christians should have a constant and intense longing for the word of God.

Which is pretty much the main theme of this blog: That all true Christians should have a strong “appetite in order to grow.” And a point which Paul seemed to be making in 1st Corinthians 3:2, “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.”

But some people, it seems, are content to remain “babes in Christ.” Or boot-camp Christians, like those “Biblical literalists who never go ‘beyond the fundamentals.’” But how else – you may ask – are we to do “greater miracles than Jesus,” as mandated by John 14:12?

Like that Apostle, “Doubting Thomas,” who ended up making his own “passage to India.” See for example, Doubting Thomas’ “passage to India.” That April 2015 post noted the tradition that Thomas sailed to India in 52 AD, to spread the Christian faith, with details of his martyrdom:

According to tradition, St. Thomas was killed in 72 AD [near] Mylapore near Chennai in India… This is the earliest known record of his martyrdom. Some Patristic literature state[s] that St. Thomas died a martyr, in east of Persia or in North India by the wounds of the four spears pierced into his body by the local soldiers.

One result? India, and especially the Malabar coast, still boasts a large native population calling themselves ‘Christians of St. Thomas,’” as memorialized by the stamp below. (Not bad for a “newborn in Christ” who had to overcome his substantial doubts…)

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Attributions for the upper and lower images – as well as those in the main text – can be found in the “Doubting Thomas Sunday” – 2017 post, and the Wikipedia articles included therein. For example, the lower image is from Wikipedia on the Apostle Thomas.

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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

See also Splitting (psychology) – Wikipedia, on the phenomenon also called black-and-white thinking, “the failure in a person’s thinking to bring together the dichotomy of both positive and negative qualities of the self and others into a cohesive, realistic whole. It is a common defense mechanism. The individual tends to think in extremes (i.e., an individual’s actions and motivations are all good or all bad with no middle ground).

So anyway, in plain words this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. The Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible offers 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.” And 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

For more about “Boot-camp Christians” see Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” 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 image below is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” 

http://www.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 “Zen in the Art of College Football…”

The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen” – on Easter Day – by Rembrandt

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Today is Palm Sunday, and next Sunday is Easter. That’s the “Christian festival and holiday commemorating the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.” (And thus the end of Lent, that 40-day period of “fastingprayer, and penance.”) I’ve written about Easter Sunday in Frohliche Ostern – “Happy Easter” – including the image above – and Happy Easter – April 2020!

The post from last year – 2020 – said that “clearly this Easter is different, mostly because of the current coronavirus pandemic.” Which led me to this observation:

Back on March 12 [2020] – what seems so long ago, and in light of the pandemic just then making headlines – I checked out two books from the local library. (Not realizing the libraries around here and the country would be closed, “for the duration.” And that I wouldn’t be able to return them for that “duration.”) One book was The Plague, by Albert Camus.

Fortunately the libraries are back open and we’re starting to get a handle on this “COVID” thing. (I get my second vaccine shot this upcoming Wednesday, March 31, down in Barnesville.) Which is a good reason to be especially thankful during this Holy Week, 2021.

For more on past posts on Palm Sunday and Easter you can check the notes, but for now I want to go back to my last post, Romans 11 – and “What happened to FSU football.” Because: If you looked at that post you may have noticed a quote that seems unexplained.

It’s concerns the fictional hero of my newest novel. (I named him “Nick,” in homage to the fictional character created by Ernest Hemingway.) It’s ostensibly about a book that he – Nick – wrote back in 1994. As in, “He went on book tours , and in one such tour personally handed a copy of ‘Zen Football*’ to Bobby Bowden.” (At right.) But I ended up doing too many updates – after publishing the post – and so couldn’t update the post one more time, in a way explain that asterisk.

Here’s what happened…

As noted, I’d already done a boatload of updating, and apparently there’s a limit on how many updates you can do with this platform, after you’ve published the post. (I kept getting “update failed, update failed.”) So I’ll try to explain the asterisk here, and in that process I’ll elaborate on that 1994 book, “Zen in the Art of College Football.” (Subtitled, “Pondering the Metaphysical Mysteries of Major College Football.”)

To review, that last post had a footnote about my fictional hero, Nick:

In 1994 “he” published a book which he titled “Zen in the Art of College Football,” about the events leading up to FSU football’s 1993 national championship. [It’s first of three.] He felt that at the time the method of choosing which two teams would play for a national championship “sounded a lot like Zen. A lot of double talk that really doesn’t make a lot of rational sense.” (Or words to that effect.)

So here are the precise “words to that effect.”

To find them, I had to go back to the original paperback.* The main title is, as noted, “Zen in the Art of College Football.” The title page says it’s a novel “Based on the Florida State Seminoles’ Seven-year Quest to Win a National Championship.” (Which they finally got in 1993.) And there’s the alternate subtitle, “Pondering the Metaphysical Mysteries of Major College Football as a Path to Enlightenment and/or Salvation.”

Which is quite a mouthful.

As for the “words to that effect,” they – and the idea for the book – came as a result of my getting an audio version of Zen in the Art of Archery. (This was around 1992 or early 1993, referring to the 1948 book by Eugen Herrigel.) I’d tried to actually read it – in book form – before that time, but always got bogged down. (In that way it was kind of like trying to read the Book of Leviticus.)

So instead I listened to the audio version on a weekend road trip down in Florida, early in the 1993 college football season. Then a few days later, “as if in a flash, I got the idea of connecting Zen in the Art of Archery with ‘Zen in the Art of College Football.'”

At the time I was – in a sense – doing research on that first novel. Specifically, I was trying to figure out why FSU’s football team had so often gotten snookered out of a shot at the national title game, year after year. (With a reference to the Greek god Tantalus, whose story gave us the word tantalize, as in “to tease or torment by or as if by presenting something desirable to the view but continually keeping it out of reach.”)

That in turn involved the method by which the two teams – back in 1993 and before – got picked to play for the national championship. I wrote at the time that it all sounded very “Zen” to me. As in, “if it’s full of contradictions, sounds like double-talk, and really doesn’t make a lot of sense, it’s probably Zen.” Which led to this:

Seen that way, Zen becomes remarkably similar to major college football, especially in the 1993 season. There are lots of similarities between “Zen” and how a national champion is picked:* both sound like double-talk, both are full of contradictions, and neither really makes a whole lot of sense.

Now about that last asterisk. Strictly speaking, the similarities were not between Zen and “how a national champion is picked.” Instead they were between Zen and how the ostensible “top two teams” who would play for the national championship got picked.

Which is another way of saying that even after all these years, I’m still finding things I need to correct in that paperback book I published back in 1994, “a long time ago and [what seems like] a galaxy far away.*” (See Star Wars opening crawl – Wikipedia.)

So right about now you may be asking, “What the heck does ‘Zen’ have to do reading the Bible?” The answer? It has to do with reading the Bible “with an open mind.” And that brings up Thomas Merton, along with the next book I wrote. (In 1995, a year after “Zen Football.”)

I called it Jesus Christ, Public Defender. (Subtitled, “and Other Meditations on the Bible, For Baby-boomers, “Nones” and Other Seekers.”) And unlike Zen Football, it’s actually now available in E-book form.*

As I wrote in “JCPD,” Merton (1915-1968) was a Catholic (Trappist) monk. In his later years he found a lot of similarities between his “orthodox” Christianity and the exotic Eastern alternatives – like Zen – that were so popular back in the 1960s. But dallying in these exotic Eastern spiritual disciplines didn’t weaken Merton’s Faith; if anything, they strengthened that faith. As one biographer wrote: 

[B]y approaching the spiritual quest at unexpected angles, they opened up new ways of thought and new ways of experiencing that invigorated and released him

Of course there are those who disagree.* Like the woman in 1989 who said the goal of Zen is to “obliterate rational thinking.” A note: This same woman said Mormonism is a cult and that practicing Hatha Yoga will turn you into some babbling zombie. (Or “words to that effect.”) And just so you know, I’ve been practicing Hatha Yoga for 50 years now. (Since the late 1970’s.) Without a guru and without shaving the hair off my head. (That came with the passage of time.)

Also, 45 years ago – when I started doing yoga – I was a typical child of the 1960s. As I wrote in JCPD, in those younger days I turned my back on the Established Church and “tried different ways of Coming to Terms With Life.*” But then in middle age I found myself coming back to The Church of My Youth. This was despite my misgivings that it was “full of hypocrite fat-cat conservatives, intolerant, self-righteous, narrow-minded.” At this point I could say “some things never change.” However, I’ve come to realize that the Christian Church in America has lots of good, faithful Seekers After Truth. (But still way too many of “that other kind.”) The point being:

Between 1987 and 1993, I went through a life-changing transformation. As I once wrote, “In 1987 I was a godless heathen dirt-bag, but by 1993 I was a church-going pillar of the community.” How did that come about?

As to how that change came about, part of it was listening to that audio book, Zen in the Art of Archery. Then making the connection between Zen and FSU’s football team. And from there – having been “invigorated and released” – going on to see the connection between Jesus Christ and the public defending that I was doing at the time. And from there continuing my Bible studies and serving in my local church, both in Florida and now up in “God’s Country.” (The Atlanta metropolitan area.) And serving in various capacities, including chalicist and Vestry member.

And now for a moment of zen. “You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can’t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you’ll have to empty your cup.” And if you think that sounds non-Biblical, see Philippians 2:7, where Jesus “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” But why?

This is harder than you might realize. By the time we reach adulthood we are so full of information that we don’t even notice it’s there. We might consider ourselves to be open-minded, but in fact, everything we learn is filtered through many assumptions and then classified to fit into the knowledge we already possess.

That’s all from Empty Your Cup, an Old Zen Saying. Another old Zen saying is that a child looks at a mountain and sees a mountain, an adult looks at a mountain and sees many things, a Zen master looks at a mountain and sees – a mountain. Which seems to mirror what Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

So becoming like children again means – among other things – looking at a mountain and seeing … a mountain. Not to mention cleaning those “assumption filters” on a regular basis. (See Dirty Air Filter – Image Results.) And that involves dropping layers of life-long preconceptions, loosening up spiritual “hardened arteries,” and opening up to the majesty of God’s creation and His gift of Jesus. In other words, be open minded, opening up to God. (Like it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He” – Jesus – “opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.”)

The same can apply to our Bible study. Which means in part both reading the Bible itself and getting feedback from other people, other teachers who can help explain how deep the Bible is.

There is a choice, “But as for me and my house,” I choose the life of abundance in John 10:10.

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The upper image is courtesy of “The Risen Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalen” – Art and the Bible.  See also Rembrandt – Wikipedia, and/or Rembrandt van Rijn: Life and Work.

Re: “Past posts on Palm Sunday and Easter.” For Palm Sunday see 2015’s On Holy Week – and hot buns, and – from 2018 – Palm Sunday: To “not sin,” or to accomplish something? For Easter, and aside from the links in the main text, see On Easter, Doubting Thomas Sunday – and a Metaphor. Note that the post from last Easter – 2020 – included the image at right, captioned “Which would you prefer: Let the Plague ‘wash over you,’ or be ‘passed over?’”

Re: The quote comparing Zen and major college football in the years leading up to 1993. It’s on page 4 of the 69-plus pages of the original paperback. I.e., there was a “scandal” involving FSU football after the 1993 season, but before publication. So I had to add a “(Post Scandal) Post-Script,” on two additional un-numbered pages.

Re: Tantalus. See Wikipedia, noting that he was a Greek god “famous for his punishment in Tartarus… He was made to stand in a pool of water beneath a fruit tree with low branches, with the fruit ever eluding his grasp, and the water always receding before he could take a drink.”

Re: Reading Leviticus. See Wikipedia, and also – for example –Where Bible Reading Plans Go To Die | Stray Thoughts.

Re: “Unlike Zen Football, it’s available in E-book form.” As noted, I published ‘Zen Football’ in 1994. This was before print on demand, so I had to order – and pay for – a thousand copies of the paperback. And to this day I still have 700-800 copies, in boxes strewn around my four-bedroom house in the piney-woods. (So maybe when I die they’ll be worth a gazillion dollars.)

Re: Thomas Merton. In “Jesus Christ Public Defender” I added:

Near the end of his life, Merton traveled to India and Tibet, and at one point interviewed the Dalai Lama.  As described in a biography, Merton and the Dalai Lama discussed in part that condition in meditation where “the mind becomes so absorbed in concentration that it forgets itself in ecstasy.”

Re: Merton’s being helped in his spiritual quest by both his Christian mysticism and “a wide knowledge of Oriental religions.” Later in life Merton became fascinated with Zen Buddhism and the Zen writer D. T. Suzuki (q.v.). He studied Taoism, “regular” Buddhism and Hinduism.

Re: “Those who disagree.” In JCPD I cited the 1989 book, Another Gospel: Cults, Alternative Religions, and the New Age, by Ruth Tucker. (See also Wikipedia.) As to Zen, Tucker said it was so “utterly esoteric” that it couldn’t be “rationally understood or explained through language.” She said the goal of Zen is to produce the frame of mind to “obliterate all rational thinking and dependence on language and knowledge in preparation for satori,” ultimate insight or enlightenment. Tucker also characterized yoga, Zen, and most non-Christian religions as cults or false religions, including Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses

Tucker also said Yoga – for example – can only be practiced with a “guru,” and its religious nature is disguised; “individuals frequently practice the exercises without, they claim, becoming involved in the actual religion.” She cited an authority who said that as time passed, people doing Hatha Yoga “gradually and imperceptibly begin to accept other concepts which involve definite religious convictions,” and that “yoga cannot be practiced in isolation from other Indian beliefs” like reincarnation...

And just for the record and as noted, I’ve done Hatha Yoga for 50 years now. (Since the 1970’s.) Without a guru, without shaving my head and without becoming a Hare Krishna, thank you very much.

And a side note: Tucker’s 1989 book is not to be confused with the 2020 book, Another Gospel?: A Lifelong Christian Seeks Truth in Response to Progressive Christianity, by Alisa Childers.

Re: “Child on the 1960s.” The link is to Flower child (or “children”) – Wikipedia, which one philosopher “viewed in Jungian terms as a collective social symbol representing the mood of friendly weakness.” Or those who reject established culture and advocate “extreme liberalism.” (Free Dictionary.) Little of which applied to me, at the time or since.

Re: “As I wrote in JCPD.” Notes and quotes are in Chapter 4: “A brief digression – about the author.”

Re: Moment of Zen. See also 5 Inspirations for Being in the Moment – zen habits zen habits, which talks about “living in the moment.”

The lower image is courtesy of Life Abundance – Image Results.

Romans 11 – and “What happened to FSU football?”

Could this be spiritual vindication, or maybe some “Lord, I have found favor in Your sight?”

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Right now you’re probably asking yourself, “What the heck does Romans Chapter 11 have to do with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers winning Super Bowl LV?” (As shown above.) Or for that matter, what does Romans 11 have to do with “Whatever happened to FSU football?” We’ll get back to that in a minute, but first…

Put it this way. For 30 years now I’ve been doing “novel” research. Research for a series of novels; three published already and one in the oven. The hero of the newest novel – call him “Nick*” – is a crazy-ass football fan. (Redundant?) This fan honestly thinks he can “help” his favorite sport teams win championships. And if this wacko’s theories are correct, he just helped his NFL-fave Tampa Bay Buccaneers win this past year’s Super Bowl LV. (BTW: “Nick” has been a Buc-fan ever since the early days, of “Buccaneer Bruce” and flaming orange team colors, shown above right.)

And just as an aside, Nick tries to “help” his teams by combining Daily Bible Reading with hard ritual-exercise “sacrifice,” described in the notes. (Not to mention living the good Christian Life.) And just in case you think that’s weird, you could say that all this started back with Moses at the Battle of Refidim. (See Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work*”)

To cut to the chase, Nick started out trying to help FSU football win championships. (Because he started law school there back in 1981.) And there were some, but lately things have gone downhill. And what seems to have happened is that FSU football’s recent string of extremely bad news has turned out to be Good News for Nick’s other favorite teams. And now for some explanation…

This post continues a theme set out in two recent posts. The first was “As a spiritual exercise,” from May 20, 2020. Then on October 4, 2020, I continued the theme in An unintended consequence – and ‘Victory O Lord!’ (All part of researching my novels.)

The first post describe the method – the hard “spiritual exercise” – that Nick used to help his favorite teams win championships. (Initially just FSU football, but later his list of favorite teams expanded.) And that first post described how – along the way – he learned lots of valuable spiritual lessons. (Since 1989 or so, as have I, in doing the research.) And like I said, the “Nick” novels* are about a “crazy-ass football fan” who keeps plugging away alone, trying to help his favorite teams:

As a Spiritual Exercise, in 1989 [Nick] started looking for new ways to “help” [his] favorite college team – Florida State University – win its first football national championship… At first it was a matter of finding the right ritual sacrifice, in the form of exercise, and especially aerobics

But in time it also came to involve that Daily Bible Reading noted above. (Which he started in 1992. And FSU won its first national championship in 1993. You do the math.) And so – to make a long story short – you could say that my research for the novels also led to me creating this blog.

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As it turned out, Nick’s hard-exercise “ritual sacrifice” was a big part of his spiritual awakening. (And mine.) But daily Bible reading also became a big part of it. Along with “Living a Good Christian Life.” (Well, mostly… “He’s Still Working on Me.”) In the process, it led him – and me – to lots of spiritual insights. For example, insights into “how the original Children of Israel must have felt when they did all the right things – and yet ended up conquered and sent into exile.”

As noted, Nick started his Mystic Quest trying to help FSU football win National Championships. And there were a number of good years that followed, including three national championships and the FSU football dynasty. (14 consecutive finishes in the Top 4.*) But over the last several years, FSU football has hit rock bottom. The team has fallen on extremely hard times. Which you might say is the functional equivalent of ancient Israel’s being conquered and sent into Babylonian exile. (Illustrated below left; “By the Waters of Babylon We Wept.”)

In FSU’s case, their “football dynasty” ended in 2001. (They went 8-and-4 and ended up ranked #15.) There followed a roller-coaster-ride series of seasons, with a third national title in 2013. Then things really fell apart…

After consecutive 10-and-3 seasons in 2015 and 2016, FSU went 7-and-6, 5-and-7, 6-and-7, and – in 2020 – a miserable 3-and-6. (List of FSU football seasons – Wikipedia, and also ‘They’re in a deep, deep hole’ – Inside the 6-year unraveling of Florida State football.) All of which is a very sad story, and an extremely humiliating fall from grace.

But what was bad news for FSU football became very good news for the rest of Nick’s favorite teams. At least lately; over the last six months or so…

What may have happened is like what the Apostle Paul explained in Romans 11. We’ll get back to that in a minute as well, but again, what seems to have happened is that FSU’s “blessings” got transferred. Transferred away from them and on to some of his other favorite teams. (See a fuller list of of those expanded other-team blessings in the June 2018 post, “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth.)

And those blessings have come in a rush over the past six months or so. (That is, with Nick’s “favorite” Tampa Bay Lightning, L.A. Dodgers and Bucs all winning their respective championships, described below.)

Which could be another way of saying the suffering (or sacrifice) of some can lead to manifest blessings for others. (As one prime example, Google “Jesus suffering servant.”) Or it could be another way of saying that being “God’s Favorite Team” may not be all it’s cut out to be…

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In other words, the original Children of Israel found out – the hard way – that being “God’s Favorite” wasn’t all they thought it would be. One thing they learned was that it was “to vigor, not comfort” that they were called.* Which is another way of saying that being God’s Favorite involves a lot of hard discipline. Or as Luke put it (in 12:48), if you get a lot of blessings from God, He will expect a lot from you in return. (Paraphrased.) Then too, as it says in Hebrews 12:6, God disciplines those He loves. Which is fine when you can keep on the straight and narrow, but what happens when you mess up? That could be one big lesson from “Whatever happened to FSU football?”

Briefly, if you – or your favorite team – mess up, you may have to go through a period of chastening. For another, if you mess up spiritually, some of your blessings may get transferred to others; other people or other teams. Which leads to the thought, “More recently, there has been a slew of good news for Nick’s ‘other favorite teams.'”

One example – noted in unintended consequences – on September 28, 2020, Nick’s favorite NHL team – Tampa Bay Lightning – won its second Stanley Cup. Then on October 7, 2020, “his” Los Angeles Dodgers won the 2020 World Series. And third, on February 7, 2021, his favorite NFL team – the Buccaneers – won Super Bowl LV.

So what’s going on here? Or as Buffalo Springfield phrased it in their song, “There’s something happening herewhat it is ain’t exactly clear.”

As to “what the heck happened to FSU football,” Nick has a theory. And it comes from Isaiah 66:4, “I will choose their punishments and bring on them what they dread. Because I called, but no one answered; I spoke, but they did not listen.” (In the NIV.)

Which is being interpreted: “Nick” first told his story* in 1994, right after FSU football won its first national championship. He described how the team was God’s Favorite, and that the 1993 national championship had been “preordained.” He put out ads in the Tallahassee papers and magazines covering FSU sports. He went on book tours , and in one such tour personally handed a copy of “Zen Football*” to Bobby Bowden.

The result? Nothing. Little or no response.

There was even one time when Nick’s wife put out a bunch of fliers on windshields at Governor’s Square Mall in Tallahassee. (At least until a not-unfriendly cop stopped her.) And pretty much the same thing happened when Nick published his second and third books, again claiming that FSU football was “God’s Favorite Team.” It was all of a lot of “I called, but no one answered.” (Like in Isaiah 66:4, noted above.)

But in all this there is some good news. (And not just for Nick’s other favorite sport teams.) For one thing, if Nick’s original theory is correct, FSU football hasn’t fallen completely from God’s grace. That’s where Romans 11 comes in. And specifically, Romans 11:11-12 (NIV):

Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring!

Which could be another way of saying that eventually – in the fullness of time – FSU football will again rise to prominence; back to championship level. In the meantime, there could be other positive benefits for FSU football fans during the “time of their exile.” For one thing, it was only during that Babylonian exile that the Old Testament as we know it came to be. (As I explained – VIS-À-VIS the how and why of that “collateral benefit” – in my April 2019 post, “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem.*”) 

In other words, if it hadn’t been for the Babylonian Exile, there might have been no “finalized” Old Testament.* And without that Old Testament as we know it, it would have been difficult for Jesus to spread His message of salvation.

Which could be where my “Nick” novels come in. (Especially the newest “in the oven.”) It always seemed to Nick that when it comes to prospective converts to The Faith, college football fans were and are ripe for the picking. (And other sport fans as well.) In other words, when it comes to sport-fans, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.” In further words, there are few people evangelizing specifically to sport fans.

Hmmm. I wonder if should write another “Nick” novel, this one proclaiming that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are “one of the newest ‘God’s Favorite Teams?'”

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Super Bowl – Image Results. With an article, “Super Bowl: Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrate victory as Tom Brady wins seventh title.” The reference in the caption is to Exodus 33:13, variously translated but in the English Standard Version, “Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. “

The “Bruce” image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Buccaneers Buccaneer Bruce – Image Results. And a word of explanation. Nick was a Tampa Bay fan first, but later went to law school at Florida State, in the early 1980s. (That was when the Bucs were really bad.) So his starting the ritual sacrifice to help FSU was just a matter of timing. FSU football seemed to offer a better chance of success.

Re: “Nick.” The novel-hero’s name is an homage to the fictional character created by Ernest Hemingway. That Nick was the “protagonist of two dozen short stories and vignettes written in the 1920s and 1930s.” See Nick Adams (character) – Wikipedia.

Re: The “Nick” novels. Only the newest “in the oven” novel will feature Nick, as described featuring a Third Person Narrative. The earlier novels used the First-person narrative, but I figured this “crazy-ass football fan’s” story could benefit from the style that offers “the most objective view of a story because neither the narrator nor the reader are participants.” (And actually that newest novel will use a combination of the two styles.)

Re: Nick’s hard ritual-exercise “sacrifice.” His routine has evolved over the years. When “he” lived in Florida in the 1990s the routine included (in the main) a series of three long jog-walks per week, usually afternoons after work. That meant juggling between waiting for the heat index to drop below 100 degrees, and trying to avoid the “clockwork regular” thunderstorms that came in summer afternoons. And those jog-walks sometimes included sprint sets, or using five-pound ankle weights. As Nick’s routine stands at the time of publication, it involves five hours per week of medium-intensity aerobics, two hours a week of high intensity aerobics, 49 minutes of yoga, and ten strength exercises. The “medium aerobics” can include kayaking, jog-walking or plain old walking, or timed calisthenics. The high-intensity aerobics include 30-minute sessions of stair-stepping, wearing a 30-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights. (And if you think that’s crazy, consider the Lightning, Dodgers and Buccaneers all winning their championships over the past six months or so.)

Re: “14 consecutive finishes in the Top 4.” In 1994 and 1995, FSU ended up ranked Number 5 in the Coaches Poll, but still ranked Number 4 in the Associated Press Poll. See Florida State football – Wikipedia. Note that starting in 2014 college football moved to the College Football Playoff rankings system. Unlike other polls, it’s “the only one that really matters,” since it determines the current four-team playoff.

Re: Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?” That’s from my companion blog. The Battle of Rephidim – or Refidim – was also noted in this blog’s On “God’s Favorite Team” – Part III, from October, 2014.

Re: “To vigor, not comfort.” An allusion to a quote from About the Blog:

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.

Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism, Ariel Press, 1914, at page 177.)

The full link is Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth Lyrics – Genius. For an audio version see For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield – YouTube.

Re: Book tours. One “virtual” site I discovered was TLC Book Tours, which it may behoove me to start using sometime soon.

Re: “Which is being interpreted.” The phrase is used elsewhere in the Bible, including Mark 5:41, Mark 15:34, and John 1:41.

Re: Nick’s first telling his story. In 1994 “he” published a book which he titled “Zen in the Art of College Football,” about the events leading up to FSU football’s 1993 national championship. He felt that at the time the method of choosing which two teams would play for a national championship “sounded a lot like Zen. A lot of double talk that really doesn’t make a lot of rational sense.” (Or words to that effect.)

Re: Romans 11. There’s a good analysis of this metaphor in Grafted in: An example from nature : The Simple Pastor. (Which by the way, features a great painting by Vincent van Gogh.) See also Acts of the Apostles – Wikipedia: “Luke–Acts is an attempt to answer a theological problem, namely how the Messiah of the Jews came to have an overwhelmingly non-Jewish church; the answer it provides is that the message of Christ was sent to the Gentiles because the Jews rejected it.” The “Jews rejected it” link has further information about Nick’s theory of “what happened to FSU football.” However, fitting “Acts of the Apostles” into the title of this post would have been exceedingly difficult.

Re: How and why the Babylonian exile shaped the Old Testament, from If I Forget Thee: “Professor Cynthia R. Chapman began by focusing on Psalm 137 as the story of how the final version of the Old Testament got made up by that Hebrew Remnant – those people in exile.  In other words, something very good – the final version of the Old Testament – was the result of something very bad happening to ‘God’s Chosen People.’”

I.e., the Old Testament as we know it didn’t exist before 586 B.C., when the Exile started. Starting with executions during a post-siege “mop up” followed by a “death march” of 800 miles to Babylon. After those horrors – and the shame of this national disgrace – the Remnant of Israel compiled, edited and shaped their collected national stories into a “virtual library.”  A library that connected them to their homeland.

Re: “Harvest is plentiful.” See Luke 10:2, and Matthew 9:35-38. And the lower image is courtesy of Harvest Plenty But Laborers Are Few – Image Results.

From two years ago – “Will I live to 141?”

He jumped from 14,000 feet to celebrate turning 100.” For me, “Been there, done that*”

*   *   *   *

I recently got the idea I might live to the ripe old age of 141. First from watching a Ric Burns documentary, the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony, and from there some research on my ancestor William Bradford. He came over on the Mayflower, and served as governor of Plymouth Colony. And he – my ancestor – ended up living “twice as long…”

Two years ago – January 20, 2019 – I posted A Review of Ric Burns’ “Pilgrims” DVD. (See also American Experience: The Pilgrims | Film Review.) Burns’ 2015 two-hour documentary wove its way “between two warped views of the Pilgrims,” one as some of the first mythologized American Founding Fathers, and an alternate, more “cynical view of them as creepy religious extremists:”

 The spine of the story is the use of excerpts from the 30-year historical account of the early colony written by William Bradford, governor of the Plymouth Plantation; his presence is effectively evoked by the late actor Roger Rees.

On that note: According to family legend, William Bradford is my long-ago “great–great-great-times-many” grandfather. (Then too, Bradford is my middle name.) The good news – for me – is that if I inherited “Grandaddy-Plus” Bill Bradford’s genes, I could end up living to 141.

*   *   *   *

There’s more on that later, and on why I reviewed and re-titled my 2019 post. (Reviewing Burns’ documentary.) But there was one big benefit: It started off with lots of information on “what’s coming up in the Church Calendar.” On that note I must confess – I “do not deny, but confess” – that I’ve been a slacker when it comes to the main purpose of this blog. Instead of “spreading the Goood News,” I’ve been paying too much attention to politics.

So, to catch up with that calendar: We’re now near the end of the Season of Epiphany, which started back on January 6. (See Happy Epiphany – 2018.) Then too the Feast Days coming up include the Confession of St Peter, Apostle, on January 18 and the Conversion of St Paul, Apostle, on January 25. (Not to mention the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, way back on February 2.) All of which leads to the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, next Sunday, February 14.

That’s also Valentine’s Day 2021. (The link is to Nine great ideas for virtual dates; which is pretty appropriate for this 48th full week of the COVID. That’s roughly 12 full months.*) It’s also the anniversary of the marriage to my first wife, who died in 2006. But we digress…

That “Last Sunday after the Epiphany” takes us to the beginning of Lent. And Lent – a season of “penancemortifying the fleshrepentance of sins, almsgiving, and self-denial” – begins with Ash Wednesday, symbolized at right. This year Ash Wednesday falls on February 17.

Meaning Easter Sunday will come on April 4, 2021.

To see any past meditations on Feast Days or topics noted above, type in a title in the “search” box, above right. ( E.g.: Type “Ash Wednesday.” That will take you to last year’s post, On Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent – 2020. Which came a month before the COVID hit.)

But now it’s time to get back to why I may live to 141 years old…

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It just hit me – in the last few weeks or so – that I’ll be turning 70 next July, 2021. When I turned 69 last July, it didn’t seem like a big deal. But this new situation seems way different. Compared to turning 69, this summer’s “turning the Big Seven-Oh” is a whole new ball game.

Which brings up why I went back to review this particular long-ago post:

Mainly I remembered something in that 2019 post about that “other Bradford” living twice as long as most people back then. So I went back, reviewed, and found the information I was looking for. That led me to re-title the 2019 post. It’s now, “Am I going to live to be 141?” Which explains the title for this new post, “From two years ago – ‘Will I live to 141?*’”

All of which led me to re-think this idea of turning 70.

Instead of being bad news – necessarily – there’s a lot of good news as well. (In the idea of turning 70.) That is, once I got used to the idea – in the last week or so, and after re-reading that 2019 post – I found the new situation quite liberating. So to repeat, the really good news is that – if I inherited my long-ago “great-times-many” grandfather – I could very well “Live long and prosper.*”

To explain further: In Governor Bradford’s time the average life expectancy was 36, but he lived to be 67. (Based on life expectancy a century after Bradford. He died in 1657.*) 

From there I did some interpolation. Dividing Bradford’s then-ripe-old-age of 67 by the “average life” 36 years, I came up with a “1.86 factor.” And if that 1.86 factor applies to me today – with a male U.S. life expectancy of 76 years – I should live to be 141. (76 years times 1.86.) Which would give me another 71 years of life. (Which is kind of nice, but also a bit scary.)

But don’t take my word for it. I did some more research and found More People Expected To Live Beyond 100 – Redorbit. It said the number of people aged 100 years or older “is expected to increase to record levels by 2050.” Two reasons: better diet and more aggressive medical procedures. Which means the “centenarian population in the US is projected to rise from 75,000 to over 600,000 by 2050.” (I found varying estimates, but this is about average.)

Another site, Number of centenarians in the U.S. 2060 | Statista, said in 2016 there were 82,000 centenarians in the United States, a figure expected to increase to 589,000 in the year 2060.

I read another study that said the number would be over 840,000, but whatever the figure, it represents a significant increase. Even using the lower 589,000 figure, that would be a seven-fold increase. (Seven times the number of Americans over 100 by 2050.)

That’s a far cry from the “Biblical three score and ten.” (See BIBLE VERSES ABOUT THREE SCORE AND TEN.) The usual citation is Psalm 90:10, “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty.” But see also Deuteronomy 34:7, “Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.” That last of which is pretty much what I’m hoping for.

*   *   *   *

So if I play my cards right, I could live to the age of Moses, 120 years. Or I could live only to the 105 years that can be gleaned by Googling “woman 105 covid.” And there’s quite a few of them. So if I lived only to that ripe old 105 years of age, I would still have 35 years (hopefully) of good living left. And my life now would only be two-thirds over. I’ll still be a “lot closer to the end than the beginning,” but that end won’t be quite as close. And who knows, I might end my years with an old-age benefit like King David:

King David was old and advanced in years;  and although they covered him with clothes, he could not get warm.  So his servants said to him, ‘Let a young virgin be sought for my lord the king, and let her wait on the king, and be his attendant;  let her lie in your bosom, so that my lord the king may be warm.’  So they searched for a beautiful girl throughout all the territory of Israel, and found Abishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king. The girl was very beautiful. She became the king’s attendant and served him, but the king did not know her

(I.e., In the biblical sense.) On the other hand, King David didn’t have all the “better living through chemistry” advantages that we have today. And those advantages will no doubt increase by, say, 2050?

Something to look forward to…

*   *   *   *

Do I have something like this to look forward to, when I’m “old and advanced in years?”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Skydiving People Over 100 – Image Results. See also He jumped from 14,000 feet to celebrate turning 100 years old, from the Everett and Snohomish County news from The Herald | HeraldNet.com:

SNOHOMISH — Robert “Stu” Williamson isn’t much for publicity and the limelight… When he jumped from 14,000 feet up in an airplane Sunday to celebrate turning 100 years old, the limelight found him anyway. Everywhere he went at Skydive Snohomish, there followed a dozen or so family, friends and staff with cameras… The Seattle centenarian made his second skydiving jump to mark his 100th birthday in airy fashion… “I recommend it to everybody who’s 99 years old,” Williamson said after landing… “And if you’re younger, get in practice.”

Re: “Been there, done that.” I did my second tandem jump back on October 1, 2020. The first tandem jump – at Skydive Spaceland Atlanta – happened the previous summer, in July 2019. But those were actually the sixth and seventh times I’ve jumped out of a perfectly good airplane. My first jump happened on May 30, 1971, at Zephyrhills (FL) municipal airport. The fifth jump happened on April 29, 1990, at Keystone Heights Airport, nine miles south of Starke, Florida. (My wife at the time – who died in 2006 – watched the jump, then said “You’re never doing that again!” Which led to a 19-year hiatus.) Anyway, with that second tandem jump I’m now qualified to jump “solo” at Skydive Spaceland. But I’m not sure that’ll happen any time soon. After all, I am turning 70 in a few months…

Re: 12 months of COVID. See On St. Philip and St. James – May, 2020, where I explained that, 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’” started Sunday, March 15 and ended Saturday the 21st.” Also note a discrepancy: 48 weeks makes “roughly 12 full months,” but a calendar year has 52 weeks.

Re: Giving the old 2019 post a new title. It was a long post, with a lot of information about how many Pilgrims died in the first year after landing at Plymouth Rock. The information on Bradford’s longevity came at the end, and was pretty brief. So I chose to focus on that last-part “Good News.”

Re: “Live long and prosper.” According to the link, ‘Live long and prosper’ – meaning and origin, the term is an “abbreviated version of a traditional Jewish religious blessing:”

It came to a wider public in the Star Trek TV series, where it was used there by the character Mr. Spock (actor Leonard Nimoy, himself Jewish) as the greeting of the Vulcan people.

The site added, “The phrase echoes the Hebrew ‘Shalom aleichem’ and the Arabic ‘Salaam alaykum,’ which roughly translate as ‘peace be upon you.'”

Re: Life expectancy in Bradford’s time. The closest I could get was Life expectancy in America in the years 1750-1800.  

Re: Psalm 90:10. The full reading: “Seventy years are given to us! Some even live to eighty. But even the best years are filled with pain and trouble; soon they disappear, and we fly away.” Which leads to a question. Should “Fundamentalists” do away with themselves once they reach 70, or at most 80 years of age? I’d prefer the answer that some things are just way different now than in Bible times. And that we should accept that potential seven-fold increase in life span as a Gift from God.

The “old Moses” image is courtesy of Moses Looking Promised Land – Image Results. See also Moses viewing the Promised Land from Mount Nebo by Robert Dowling (1879).

Re: Googling “woman 105 covid.” Some sample articles: 105-year-old Vermont woman who survived influenza pandemic receives COVID 19 vaccine, 105-year-old Minnesota woman gets her COVID-19 vaccination, and 105-year-old Bay Area woman gets COVID-19 vaccine. For an alternate see 103-Year-Old Man Becomes 500th COVID-19 Patient To Be Discharged from Northwest Hospital.

Re: That last full paragraph in the main text. The link leads in part to: “Idioms: know (someone) in the biblical sense[.] To have sexual relations with (someone).”

The lower image is courtesy of King David Abishag – Image Results. The painting may actually show Bathsheba, see Moritz Stifter Bathsheba – Image Results, and/or Bathsheba Painting – Image Results.  The “Abishag” connection was gleaned from “Interesting Green: Reflection – King David and Abishag,” from veryfatoldmanblogspot.com. But see also Is Veryfatoldman.blogspot legit and safe?  (Review).

With God’s help – “We HAVE overcome…”

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To see the lead image from the original post – January 28, 2021 – click on “The Nightmare (Henry Fuseli, 1781).” (It’s really ugly.) I added my own caption: Asked before the 2016 election: Are we in for a new ‘national nightmare?Well yes, but (Meaning we were, but now it’s over…)

*   *   *   *

Four years ago I asked the musical question: “Are we in for a new ‘national nightmare?” Today’s answer is, “Well yes we were, but…” That is, these past four years have been a long national nightmare, but we’ve come through.

That is, four years ago – September 26, 2016, five weeks before the presidential election – I posted “With God’s help, we can get through ANYTHING.” In that pre-election post I asked, as noted, “Are we in for a new national nightmare?” My answer at the time? “Yes, because whoever wins, half the voters in the 2016 election will think so.”

But now after further review – and American democracy having survived various Trumpian constitutional crises – there’s a “new and improved” answer. It came after the inauguration on Wednesday, January 20, 2021. (Finally!) That new and improved answer? We HAVE Overcome.

That brings up the old Gospel song illustrated – and addressed – at the end of the main text.

But back to that question, “Were we in for a new ‘national nightmare?” Today’s answer, expanded, is “Well yes, but…” That is, “Well yes, we did live through four years of a long national nightmare, but American constitutional democracy has prevailed.” That, and at least some semblance of genuine American Christianity. Kind of. (See Evangelicals in Midwest Who Ditched Trump Cost Him the Election, and A Christian Case Against Donald Trump.)

Which brings up one big benefit from the last four years. I myself have “come out of the closet,” so to speak, in the sense of becoming much more vocal about my “real Christian” faith. In Facebook and elsewhere I have quoted the Bible much more, and tried to convey the real meaning of the Christian faith. (In keeping with Ezekiel 3:16-21. “Ezekiel’s Task as a Watchman.”)

Not that it always did a whole lot of good. (With some people anyway.) Which means that even with Donald Trump “bidding adieu,” there’s still a lot of work to do…

And lest you think I’m being too political for a “good Christian,” see Televangelist Pat Robertson says God told him Trump will win. (Or Google “pastor God Trump win,” for some interesting results.) But getting back to 2016’s “With God’s help,” I wrote that no matter who won, Donald or Hillary would face “intense – if not rabid – opposition from close to half the American people.”

If you think I’m exaggerating, check these four links:  For Trump, Trump presidency would be a ‘nightmare,’ says Joseph Stiglitz, and The Trump nightmare is real. Clinton could lose this. From the other side of the aisle, consider these:  The Nightmare World of a Hillary Clinton Presidency, and A Clinton Presidency: Humanity’s Worst Nightmare.  Or you could Google the term “presidency nightmare,” and add either candidate’s name.

So like I said, no matter who won the 2016 election – Donald or Hillary – a significant portion of the American sovereign people would end up badly “bent out of shape.”

Which is where a strong Christian faith can help. For one thing, and as I noted in 2016:

We’ve been through worse before!

Think the American Civil War. Think the Great Depression. Or think about the episode in our national history that led to the original “long national nightmare” quote in the first place.

That quote came from Gerald Ford, when he was sworn in as president after Richard Nixon resigned. (A result of the Watergate scandal. For more on Ford’s speech see This Day in Quotes: “Our long national nightmare is over.”  But see also a parody of the phrase – from The Onion, a “digital media company and news satire organization” – which quoted President George W. Bush as saying – on his taking office – “Our Long National Nightmare Of Peace And Prosperity is Finally Over.”)

And by the way, that last tidbit in parentheses is an example of Using Humor to Get Through Difficult Times. But getting back to 2016, I wrote that Gerald Ford’s comments about the 1974 national nightmare “could foreshadow” what would happen on January 20, 2021.

It could well foreshadow how those 40% [or more] of voters – disappointed by the outcome of the 2016 election – will feel when – it is entirely possible – a new president takes office. (And when it is entirely possible that new president will be neither Donald Trump nor Hillary…)

And so it has turned out…

I also wrote – in 2016 – that I felt duty-bound to take the high road. To follow the dictum “Better to Light a Candle Than Curse the Darkness.” But of course there are those who disagree:

That “stupid darkness” cartoon was a nod to a book by Chris Matthews, titled Life’s a Campaign. (I did the “book on CD.”) One chapter was “Great politicians sell hope.” That became the subject of my post on June 12, 2015. (And which led to my first thought, “What rock have you been living under?“) But one good point I got from the book was that the 2020 presidential candidate “who offers hope rather than fear will win.” (Together with this: “Maybe today’s politicians are simply a reflection of the nastiness that seems to have taken hold of a large part of our population.”) 

In part because of that general, widespread nastiness – and both to fight the good fight and take the high road – I figured it’d help to go back to our Baptismal Covenant. The question-and-answer statement of faith on “how we, as Christians, are called to live out our faith”*:

[Celebrant:]  Will you persevere in resisting evil, and , whenever
you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?

[People:]  I will, with God’s help…

[Celebrant:]  Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving
your neighbor as yourself?

[People:]  I will, with God’s help.

[Celebrant:]  Will you strive for justice and peace among all
people, and respect the dignity of every human
being?

[People:]  I will, with God’s help.

I wrote in 2016 that the point was this: Each of the three questions – in the question-answer format – has the same answer:  “I will, with God’s help.” So in the face of that upcoming 2016 presidential election, we should [I wrote] keep this in mind:  “With God’s help, we can get through anything. Even if – God forbid! – [fill in the blank] gets elected!”

Which I did keep in mind, though not without some sleepless nights. And quite often – in those long four years – my mind went back to the old Gospel tune, We Shall Overcome. But there’s a difference today. Today we can sing, if only for a moment, and with so much work left to do:

We HAVE overcome!

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

As noted, the upper image is courtesy of Nightmare – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Nightmare (Henry Fuseli, 1781).”  The Henry Fuseli link added:

Since its creation, it has remained Fuseli’s best-known work…  Due to its fame, Fuseli painted at least three other versions…  The canvas seems to portray simultaneously a dreaming woman and the content of her nightmare.  The incubus and the horse’s head refer to contemporary belief and folklore about nightmares, but … critics were [also] taken aback by the overt sexuality of the painting…

After noting again that contemporary critics “found the work scandalous due to its sexual themes,” the link pointed out that the main subject of the painting – the woman – seems to have been prompted by “unrequited love.” It seems that Fuseli had “fallen passionately in love with a woman named Anna Landholdt in Zürich … the niece of his friend, the Swiss physiognomist Johann Kaspar Lavater.”  However, Landholdt “married a family friend” soon after the artist proposed to her…   

*   *   *   *

Re: “Come out of the closet.” BTW: That was either a metaphor or hyperbole, “exaggeration for dramatic impact.” And research led to this meme, “come out of the closet lindsey graham.” Which brings up the Internet and truth; See “Bonjour!”

The second image in the text is courtesy of Ezekiel Watchman – Image Results. It’s with an article, What about a watchman? – BibleTruths. It cited Ezekiel 33:7 – in the image – but then went back to Ezekiel 3:16-21. The article began with a man who sincerely believed God called him “to be a Watchman” for his local church, but used that “to justify enforcing harsh Pharisaical rules and regulations” on other members.” Faithful readers of this blog will note such a view is precisely what this blog opposes. For myself, I believe we are called to be “watchmen” to each other, and that by and through such fruitful dialog we can all be better “practicing Christians.” See On St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men, which included the “parable of the Blind men and elephant,and this:

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.)

Re: Gerald Ford’s 1974 comments “foreshadowing.” In the 2016 post I wrote that the comments could foreshadow what happened on “January 20, 2020.” (Needless to say, I’m embarrassed but will leave the 2016-post wording as it is.)

Re: “Fight the good fight.” The reference is to 2 Timothy 4:7, where Paul wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

The quotes from the “Baptismal Covenant” are courtesy of The (Online) Book of Common Prayer, at the link Holy Baptism, at pages 304-305.

Re: “We shall overcome,” Youtube. The link in the text is to the lily-white version by Joan Baez, mostly because she has such a great voice. (And she’s cute too, vis-a-vis “coming out of the closet.”) For a more ethnically-diverse version, see “We Shall Overcome”- Morehouse College Glee Club – YouTube. And in the interest of full coverage, here’s an image at left including Martin Luther King, courtesy of We Shall Overcome – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of We Shall Overcome – Image Results. It comes with a video, Pete Seeger – We shall overcome – YouTube, which may or may not be the version in the link. See also We Shall Overcome – Wikipedia, on the “gospel song which became a protest song,” and a key anthem of the civil rights movement. The song is commonly seen as “lyrically descended from ‘I’ll Overcome Some Day,’ a hymn by Charles Albert Tindley first published in 1901. The article traces the history of the song from 1901 to its association with the civil rights movement in the 1960s, including an arrangement by Pete Seeger. That arrangement was first sung in public in 1959, by Guy Carawan at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee.

“Gleaning” on the Epiphany – 2021

In this post I am gleaning past posts on The Epiphany – with a nod to  Jean-François Millet.

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Today, Wednesday, January 6, we celebrate the feast of The Epiphany. (It was also the day Congress (was supposed to) Count Electoral Votes, as that count affects last November’s presidential election, but that’s a whole ‘nother story entirely.*)

So this year’s Epiphany will be yet another “like no other” in American history. (For reasons both a bit surprising and yet reasonably foreseeable. And continuing a concept in line with 2020 – A Christmas like no other?) In turn, while the “secular” Electoral College count will be delayed – though only temporarily – we can still celebrate Epiphany. To review, that is the “Christian feast day that celebrates the revelation (theophany) of God incarnate as Jesus Christ.”

And that’s an idea that can definitely put things in perspective. (As in, “This too shall pass.”)

On that note, I’ve picked three earlier posts to glean from. (Seeking past “nuggets” on the Feast day.) And gleaning is now a term with multiple meanings. Originally it meant to “collect (grain, grapes, etc.) left behind after the main harvest or gathering.” Or to gather what was left in a field or vineyard. (As in the painting by Jean-François Millet, The Gleaners, at the top of the page. See also Ruth 2:2, and following: “Let me go to the field so that I may glean among the ears of grain behind,” illustrated at right.)  But now it can also mean to “gather information in small amounts,” though sometimes with implied difficulty.

So, back to the past posts. From 2016, Epiphany, circumcision, and “3 wise guys.” From two years later, Happy Epiphany – 2018. And from last year – which seems a decade ago – My recent Utah trip – and “3 Wise Guys.” That 2016 post noted January 6 is also called Three Kings’ Day. The post includes lot of information on those three kings – or wise men – and also on how that day ties in to the Feast of the Circumcision of Christ. (January 1, also known as “National Hangover Day.”) The 2016 post also has lots of background on that particular ritual…

(That is, circumcision, not hangovers.)

As to Happy Epiphany – 2018, it said January 6 is also known as the last of the 12 Days of Christmas. (To confuse things more, the evening of January 5 is “12th Night.”) Then too, it pointed out that the word “epiphany” can also refer to an appearance, a displaying, a showing forth, or “a making clear or public or obvious.” (On the question whether today’s “violence and anarchy” came under the heading “reasonably foreseeable.” See also Twitter blocks Trump for 12 hours, threatens permanent suspension. “Ya think?”)

Which brings us back to “just last year – which seems like a decade ago – My recent Utah trip.” Aside from discussing the circumcision aspect of the January 1st holiday, it also noted this:

. . . the end of an old year and beginning of a New Year is also a time to recall the events of that past year gone by, and 2019 was definitely a year of pilgrimage for me. Like my trip last May to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. (See “On to JerusalemOn my first full day in Jerusalem, or type in “Jerusalem” in the search box above right.)

So the Utah winter trip came at the end of a pilgrimage-filled 2019. Another example was my September 2019 trip to Portugal, for a 160-mile hike on the Portuguese Way (of the Camino de Santiago), from Porto to Santiago. (Type “Portugal” in the search box.) However, “my most recent pilgrimage was a 15-day drive out to and back from my brother’s house in Utah.”

All of those were great trips – great pilgrimages – in hindsight. But as for recalling “the events of that (last) past year gone by” – that is, the pandemic-plagued year 2020 – my response is “No, thank you!” It’s time to move on. (And come to think of it, I’m not too crazy about the “Capitol” events of January 6, 2021 either.) But getting back to last year’s mid-winter trip out to Utah. (As in a kind of Foretaste of the Heavenly Banquet to Come. Here referring metaphorically to the time when we can once again take long road trips and travel overseas.)

That mid-winter trip included getting snowed in at a Motel 6 in Grand Island, Nebraska, with a view of a near-frozen North Platte River from my motel window, as shown below. But it also included a great burger and two draft beers at the Thunder Road Grill at the truck stop next door. So the way I figure, “there’s some kind of lesson there!

Here’s hoping for a much better 2021 (starting tomorrow)…

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The upper image is courtesy of The Gleaners – Wikipedia.

Re: “A whole ‘nother story.” See e.g. ‘Violence and anarchy.’ Chaos erupts following Trump’s unprecedented effort to overturn Biden’s election win.

Re: “This too shall pass.” The link is to 33 Encouraging Quotes for Times of Crisis | Inc.com. Some of my new favorites (from the site): “Any kind of crisis can be good. It wakes you up,” and “Close scrutiny will show that most ‘crisis situations’ are opportunities to either advance, or stay where you are.” Which is being interpreted: We will come out of today’s “crisis” stronger than before.

The painting of Ruth is courtesy of Wikipedia.

I took the photo at the end of the main text, of “Grand Island” outside my Motel 6 window, as noted. I also took a photo of my glasses on the bar next to a half-empty glass of draft beer. (The Motel 6 in question was at 7301 Bosselman Ave, Grand Island, NE. Next door was a full service trucker’s station, with a bar and grill. The full link to the “Thunder Road” website is Thunder Road Grill | Pizza, Wings & Burgers | Grand Island, NE.)

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2020 – A Christmas like no other?

“Seattle police wearing masks in December 1918.” Is 2020 a case of deja vu all over again?

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It’s Christmas Eve Day, 2020. Which leads to the question: “Is our Christmas Day in this crazy, pandemic-plagued year of 2020 truly one ‘like no other?'”

The answer? “Actually, no.” There was for example Christmas in 1918…

Which led me to this article, Was Christmas celebrated during the 1918 Spanish Flu?

A largely unheeded warning from 1918…

For some background, the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic started in February that year and lasted until April, 1920. (So, roughly two years and two months?) And in another “deja vu all over again,” the culprit was the H1N1 flu virus. (It also caused the 2009 swine flu pandemic.)

But back to 1918, when there was a little thing called World War I going on. The first recorded such “flu” case in the United States was said to come on March 4, 1918. “Albert Gitchell, an army cook” at Camp Funston in Kansas. (Although there were probably some cases before him.) First seen in Haskell County, Kansas, in January 1918, a local doctor warned the US Public Health Service, to no avail. Within days, 522 men at Camp Funston had reported sick, and by March 11, 1918, the virus had reached Queens, New York. And in a sign of things to be repeated:

Failure to take preventive measures in March/April was later criticized.

But wait, there’s more! Because the war was raging, censors minimized early reports. That is, they did so in the major countries involved in the war, but not in neutral Spain. There, reports of the disease weren’t censored, which is why the epidemic got the name “Spanish flu.”

From Camp Funston the disease spread through the American Expeditionary Forces, who brought it to Europe and the Western Front by mid-April, 1918. It then spread from France to Great Britain, Italy, Spain and beyond. After the March Treaty of Brest-Litovsk – between Germany and Russia – “Germany started releasing Russian prisoners of war, who then brought the disease to their country.” From there it spread to the rest of the world in four “waves,” with a much-deadlier second wave in late 1918. (With a third wave in 1919 and a fourth in 1920.) 

Later that year – on November 11, 1918 – the war ended, and people were so happy they “couldn’t be stopped from gathering to celebrate.” Then too the number of Spanish Flu cases went down toward the end of 1918, so restrictions were eased and many churches “swelled with the joyous music of the [Christmas] season once again.” But as one site noted, “History suggests that celebrating holidays during a pandemic by gathering in large groups, as one might during normal times, could have harmful and long-lasting effects.”

Which may explain the second, third and fourth “waves.” On the other hand, back then “they” had some advantages, as noted in A Look Back at Christmas During the Spanish Flu Pandemic. For one thing, Americans in 1918 were “much more familiar with epidemic disease:”

… epidemic disease was very familiar to the early 20th century public. Families, many of which had lost a child to diphtheria or watched a loved one suffer from polio, were generally willing to comply with some limitations on their activities. Most public health departments wore badges and had police powers, and this was generally uncontroversial. “They could forcibly quarantine you or put you on a quarantine station on an island.”

So much for the “advantage” being familiar with deadly epidemic diseases. But at least they were “willing to comply with some limitations on their activities.” And another point to remember is that – be all that as it may – the United States and the world survived. So much so that if it hadn’t been for this year’s COVID-19 pandemic – illustrated at right – few people today would have any reason to recall the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

Which brings up a link from my last post, December 2020 – and “Bad things to good people?” The gist of that link – Bad Things to Good People? | Psychology Today – was its “scientific” answer: That “the universe has no inherent purpose or design.”

However, the pointy-headed scientist-slash-probably-an-atheist-as-well who came up with that conclusion did offer up some good advice. (Bless his heart,” as we say in Georgia):

There is much we can do to alleviate each other’s suffering when adversity strikes. Our support and empathy toward our fellow human beings in their time of need helps them not only materially but demonstrates to them that they matter… When we act kindly, it also gives meaning to our own life, as we see that we matter to others.

All of which is pretty much what Christians are supposed to do anyway. (Show empathy, try to alleviate the suffering of others.) And which was pretty much the point of Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000. That rather than waiting on God to perform some miracle, we should get to work on the problem ourselves. Which brings up the “Christmas spirit.”

I Googled “what is the Christmas spirit” and got 4,180,000 results. Here’s one answer I liked, from What is Christmas Spirit? – Scientific American Blog Network:

The code of generosity, kindness, and charity toward others is enforced by no one other than ourselves. There are places where this code is strong, and these places (or people) are said to have strong Christmas spirit… After all, we are the sum of the individuals around us who generate the collective force that governs and organizes our social structure… When we “act out” Christmas spirit, we’re making visible this collective force, and we give it power.

Then there’s Christmas Spirit – Its Real Meaning | 7th Sense, which defined that spirit in three simple actions: Giving, Appreciating, and Doing service. Which is pretty much the same advice “pointy-headed scientist-slash-probably-an-atheist-as-well” offered a few paragraphs back…

And which is pretty much the conclusion I came to back on April 25, when I posted On St. Mark, 2020 – and today’s “plague.” Aside from the then-new COVID pandemic, it spoke of Mark’s “shorter” and more abrupt ending. (The one where, “Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb.” I.e., without the account of His resurrection.) I said maybe the point of “both today’s Covid-19 ‘persecution’ and Jesus’ seemingly unexplained death – with ‘Mark’ ending at Mark 16:8 – have the capacity to be mysteries.”

Such “mysteries” – and even pandemics – seem to be a part of life. But from them we can learn valuable lessons, like how to develop and grow stronger, spiritually and otherwise. Which means the “answer” to such mysteries largely depends on us. “What will we do with this unexpected calamity? Will we go forward and grow stronger, or turn back the clock and start turning on each other?” In turn, “our” Covid-19 can remind us of our “fragility as human beings,” as noted in a quote from The Plague by Camus, in Part 1, early in the book:

Everybody knows that pestilences have a way of recurring in the world; yet somehow we find it hard to believe in ones that crash down on our heads from a blue sky. There have been as many plagues as wars in history; yet always plagues and wars take people equally by surprise.

Which certainly seems true of this latest 2020 pestilence. It certainly came as a surprise. Which brings up a book review from the Salt Lake Tribune on “The Plague,” with this relevant point:

Being alive always was and will always remain an emergency; it is truly an inescapable “underlying condition…” This is what Camus meant when he talked about the “absurdity” of life. Recognizing this absurdity should lead us not to despair but to a tragicomic redemption, a softening of the heart, a turning away from judgment and moralizing to joy and gratitude.

One possible lesson? The current pestilence might lead to a massive change in our present national life, and especially our national political life. The present Coronavirus might lead to a general and sweeping American “softening of the heart.” So with all that in mind:

Merry Christmas, 2020, and may 2021 be a WHOLE lot better!

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A “time of pestilence” can show there are more things to admire in people than to despise…

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The upper image is courtesy of Wikipedia on the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic.

The “influenza” image was accompanied by a caption: “Rules to reduce the spread of Spanish flu posting by the US Public Health Service. Cough or sneeze into your mouth with a handkerchief, avoid crowded places, do not spit, do not share the use of cups and napkins…. Typographic poster; Unites States, Washington, DC 1918. (Photo by Fototeca Gilardi/Getty Images).”

The image “COVID-19 – illustrated at right” is captioned: “A testing team responds to a confirmed case in a nursing home in Charleston, West Virginia.”

The lower image is courtesy of The Plague – Wikipedia

December 2020 – and “Bad things to good people?”

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It’s mid-December, 2020. At such times – near the end of a given year – people tend to look back. They look back at what happened in that year just past. Or maybe we take a look back at “this time last year.” Sometimes it helps to see what a difference a year makes. Or recall what we were doing and thinking “this time last year.”

So – in looking back over posts from “this time last year” – I came across an unfinished draft. That is, a post I started, but never finished. The tentative title? “Bad things to good people?” Which may have been a bit of foreshadowing. That is, it may have been an early “indication of what is to come.” (2020 has been a crazy year…)

The last time I modified the post was December 15, 2019, a year ago. So now – after our crazy, pandemic-plagued year of 2020 – seems like a good time to bring the topic up to date… I started the “bad things to good people” post off with this:

It struck me recently [in December 2019] that sometimes – when it seems that “bad things happen to good people” – God isn’t punishing us. Maybe He’s just trying to get us back on the right track, in the only way He has available. Usually through negative feedback. In the manner of a sheep dog “nipping at the heels” of a member of His flock.

The point is that through the Bible, God’s been saying for years how we should act, what we should do. But when we don’t pay attention – when that fails – the only option He has left is to resort to that negative feedback. Which brings up the difference between negative and positive feedback. Put simply, what if – instead of having to be told constantly what not to do – you could get positive feedback from God that tells you should do in the first place?

(You know, besides the stuff that’s already in the Bible.) In other words, if you “learned to speak God’s language.” That’s where the Bible comes in, and why it pays to actually read the Bible…

That brings up a theme I’ve tried to advance in this blog: That studying the Bible is a good way to get that positive feedback from God. (To “learn His language.”) If you read and study long enough, you can figure out what God wants before He has to use negative feedback.

Which brings up What the Bible says about Sheep as Metaphor. One point? Sheep are really stupid. The only way they ever get going in the right direction is to have a sheep dog “nipping” at their heels. So my point: Read and study the Bible. It’s a whole lot easier on the heels…

Getting back to the “negatives” of 2020, check a review in 2020 events so far: Yep, these all happened this year. (From the New York Post). Australian brush fires, beginning December 2019 and extending into 2020. (Burning a record 47 million acres and killing at least 34 people.) Kobe Bryant’s death, Donald Trump’s impeachment (and whitewash). Blacks Lives Matter protests. An exceedingly nasty presidential election. And of course the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 stock market crash that followed.

So what “right track” could God try to get us back on? Especially in the U.S., where the death toll from COVID is approaching 292,000? (See COVID updates: US death toll surpasses World War II combat fatalities.) If I had to guess, I’d use three little words (and an addendum):

Lack of compassion – and too much hate!

If that’s too subtle, here in simpler terms: “Stop hating so much, and show a whole lot more compassion than you’ve shown the past year!” But that’s already in the Bible. (See Matthew 5:44 and Luke 6:28. And What does the Bible say about compassion, especially 1st John 4:20, that if “we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We cannot see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see?”)

Which brings us back to “stupid sheep.” Consider Why does God call us sheep? – Blogger, or What is the significance of sheep in the Bible? The latter’s reasons for the metaphor included that sheep don’t “have a defense system” and are helpless without a shepherd. Also:

. . . sheep are notorious for following the leader, regardless of how dangerous or foolish that [leader] may be. Like sheep, human beings are extremely gullible when an attractive or charismatic leader promises a shiny new idea. History is replete with tragic illustrations of the “herd mentality” in action (Acts 13:5019:34Numbers 16:2).

Following a dangerous or foolish leader? (Instead of sticking to the eternal truths of the Bible?) “Extremely gullible?” Charismatic leader? Shiny new idea? “Herd mentality?” All these sound very familiar. But getting back to why bad things can happen to good people. Or why “God” might have “sent the Coronavirus.” Or why the reminder to have more compassion…

One precedent from the Bible? The Massacre of the Innocents, which we remember on December 28, three days after Christmas. (This year “transferred” to the 29th, as Holy Innocents.) There, on hearing of Jesus’ birth, “Herod the Greatking of Judea, orders the execution of all male children two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem.”

So why did all those male infants have to die, near the time of Jesus’ birth? Or for that matter, why did some 292,000 Americans have to die in the past year, from COVID?

One answer came in When Bad Things Happen to Good People, the 1981 book by Harold Kushner, “a Conservative rabbi.” The gist of his book was that God is benevolent but not all-powerful to prevent evil. “God does his best and is with people in their suffering, but is not fully able to prevent it.” Which brings up Finite God Theodicy

“Finite God Theodicy maintains that God is all-good (omnibenevolent) but not all-powerful,” while theodicy in general tries to answer why God permits evil. (Or COVID.) It’s a “theological construct” trying to “vindicate God in response to the evidential problem of evil that seems inconsistent with the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent deity.”

Another answer – ostensibly – can be seen in Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? | Psychology Today, posted in October 2019. That review of Kushner’s book – by Ralph Lewis M.D., a “scientific thinker” – answered bluntly, “Bad things happen for the same reason anything happens.” He listed Kushner’s answer, to “drop the belief in God’s omnipotence.” And to accept his “scientific” conclusion, that the universe has no inherent purpose or design.

I don’t buy it, for reasons including those listed in May 2019’s “As a spiritual exercise,” and the recent Unintended consequence – and ‘Victory O Lord!’ But then there’s a post from 2015, On the wisdom of Virgil – and an “Angel.” It talked about some wisdom I gleaned – from both Virgil the old Roman poet, and a “‘Frisco” Hell’s Angel named Magoo. And Professor Timothy Shutt, who said our human minds are just too limited to ever fully understand “God:”

We are simply not up to the task, not wired for such an overload. We are no more prepared to comprehend an answer than – to make use of a memorable example – cats are prepared to study calculus. It’s just not in our nature.

That is, Virgil took issue with the “all or nothing” idea that either there’s a God who controls all things, or that there must be no God at all. (That “chance or strictly natural forces give rise to all that we see around us.”) Another name for that “all or nothing” approach is  splitting, or in more familiar terms “black and white thinking.”  

I discuss that phenomenon routinely in the notes below. In plain words, the human brain doesn’t like ambiguity. Or for that matter cognitive inconsistency. The human brain would much rather think in black-and-white terms than deal with Virgil’s nuanced approach. And Virgil crystallized his spiritual “sense of things” in the Aeneid, Book III:

Divine order could be seen in some things, but other things more or less just happened. This is not a view we tend to share, but it does make a certain sense… [A]n overarching order at work in the world, a final coherence in the way that things work. But it remains out of human reach, and despite our efforts, we can merely come to know it only in part…

So one of my conclusions? That compared to God most of us humans are “really stupid sheep.”

On the other hand some of us take the time to read and study the Bible, with an open mind. And so we realize that however much we learn – from the Bible and life experience – we can never fully comprehend “God.” Which means we can reject the idea of an unpowerful God who “does His best” but can’t – or won’t – prevent human suffering. And reject the “black and white” idea that either God is all-powerful or that there is no God, and so human life is totally random, without any meaning or purpose. (On that note see The True Test of Faith.)

As to that idea we can never fully comprehend “God?” There’s one answer: “Not yet anyway.” In the meantime, keep reading the Bible with an eye to getting that positive feedback.

It’s a whole lot easier on the heels…

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“You’re going the wrong way, you stupid sheep!”

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The upper image is courtesy of When Bad Things Happen Good People – Image Results.

As to what all this means about what “we” can do about the Coronavirus, “Psychology Today’s” Dr. Lewis had one good answer, that we “rely on each other:”

There is much we can do to alleviate each other’s suffering when adversity strikes. Our support and empathy toward our fellow human beings in their time of need helps them not only materially but demonstrates to them that they matter and that what happens to them has an emotional impact on us. When we act kindly, it also gives meaning to our own life, as we see that we matter to others.

Which is actually a very “Christian” thought. And which was pretty much my point in Another view of Jesus feeding the 5,000. To wit: That it would be a greater miracle if Jesus “got a bunch of normally-greedy people to share what they had,” rather than simply performing a routine magic trick.  

Re: December 28. See also Feast of the Holy Innocents (Britannica):

The feast is observed by Western churches on December 28 and in the Eastern churches on December 29. The slain children were regarded by the early church as the first martyrs, but it is uncertain when the day was first kept as a saint’s day. It may have been celebrated with Epiphany, but by the 5th century it was kept as a separate festival. In Rome it was a day of fasting and mourning.

As indicated in the main text, this “feast” was transferred from the 28th to the 29th. This year the day for St John, Apostle and Evangelist – normally December 28 – was transferred to Monday; standard procedure when such a feast day falls on a Sunday.

For more on metaphors see e.g. Famous Metaphors in The Bible – Literary Devices. Metaphors turn difficult ideas into simple concepts. Metaphors also infuse written text with vivid descriptions that make the text more vibrant and enjoyable to read.

Here are some thoughts from the 2019 rough draft, included for completeness:

The point of all this is that normally – based on our own shortcomings – God has no way of telling us directly “the way we should go.” He can only direct us through negative feedback, telling us where not to go, in the manner of a sheep dog. He can only get through to us by a process of elimination... Which can be very difficult for us to comprehend. When we don’t get our way, or when we think we’ve done the Right Thing and that “God owes us,” we get mad when “bad things” happen.

See also The Gospel reading for May 4, with this about the “way of the sheep:”

Hearing now and again the mysterious piping of the Shepherd, you realize your own perpetual forward movement . . . and so are able to handle life with a surer hand.  Do not suppose from this that your new career 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.

The lower image is courtesy of Sheep Dog Nipping Heels – Image Results. The image came with an article, “Social sheepdogs: nipping and nudging into the mainstream,” about the “sheep-dog-like” behavior of sports team-mates of the writer’s adolescent special-needs son.

December 2020, Advent, and a “new beginning…”

For one November event I’m thankful for finishing, see “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age…”

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It all started with the Election That Seemed Like It Would Never End, followed by the Election Legal Challenges That Seem Like They Will Never End. In the meantime we’ve also celebrated Thanksgiving Day on November 26, followed by the Feast Day for St Andrew, Apostle. (Shown at left.)

That was last Monday, November 30. And aside from all that, Christmas is coming up three weeks from Friday, December 4. Which is preceded by the Season of Advent, which itself started last Sunday, November 29, in the First Sunday of Advent. About that “First Sunday,” see Boston College‘s Matthew Monnig: 

Advent … calls us to look back to the past, forward to the future, upwards to heaven, and downwards to earth. It is a time of anticipation… The first Sunday of Advent is the start of a new liturgical year, and yet there is a continuity with the end of the liturgical year just finished… One does not have to be a prophet of doom to recognize that this year [2020] has been filled with terrible events… We need God to come and fix a broken world. The season of Advent is about [the] “devout and expectant delight” that God will do that.

So the Season of Advent is about looking ahead and New Beginnings, which brings up my “hope-fully” spending November preparing a new book for publication – in both an e-book and paperback – as detailed in the November 18 post, On “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age.” (Which actually was a lot of fun, remembering and writing about all those great travel adventures and pilgrimages I enjoyed – back before the COVID hit…)

But getting back to those upcoming Feast Days and Liturgical Seasons. I’ve covered them in posts like An early Advent medley, from 2015, and On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent, from 2016. And by the way, in the Daily Office set of Bible readings, next Monday – December 7, 2020 – is the Feast Day of Ambrose of Milan. So it looks like another busy month…

But first, remembering Thanksgiving: Past posts include On the first Thanksgiving – Part I and Part IIThanksgiving 2015Thanksgiving – 2016Thanksgiving – 2017, and On Thanksgiving 2019. I started off the latter (2019) post with this: “Things have been hectic since I got back last September 25th 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!”

Then it went on to discuss an “Old Testament reading from Isaiah 19:19-25 … of a future highway, running from Egypt to Assyria and vice versa, and which will eventually lead to something new under the sun: ‘when the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians:’”

On that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my heritage.’

One problem? At the time the Assyrians and Egyptians were arch-enemies, with each other and with Israel. (Which they took turns conquering.) “Which means this passage looks forward to an ultimate day of peace and harmony, between those nations which were at the time bitter enemies.” So here’s hoping that that reading may be a bit of positive foreshadowing.

Heck, if Israel could have gotten along with either the Egyptians or Assyrians, today’s Democrats and Republicans should be able to get along too. (They are after all, fellow citizens of the same country.) Which brings us back to the theme Advent [as] The Season of Hope:

This year, more than ever, we really need to focus on hope! We have been bruised and battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, a polarizing election, racial strife, and so much more. 

The point being that “Advent is always a season of hope, a season that reminds us never to lose sight of the hope we Christians are called to live with year-round.” 

So here’s looking forward to a happy and much-better 2021!

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results, and was featured in the previous post.

Re: Other Feast Days coming up: As noted, next Monday – December 7, 2020 – is the Feast Day of Ambrose of Milan, in the Daily Office. (See What’s a DOR?) And also An early Advent medley. That post noted that Ambrose is one of “Eight Doctors of the Church” and four “Fathers of the Western Church,” and that “perhaps his greatest work was converting St. Augustine of Hippo.”

The lower image is courtesy of Looking Forward 2021 – Image Results. The image accompanied an article, New Cruise Ships To Look Forward To In 2021 – Cruise Bulletin.

On “(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age…”

To see more images of the “meanest 33 miles in history,” go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results

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The next major feast day is Thanksgiving, Thursday, November 26. For a look at some past posts on the subject see the Notes. In the meantime I have something to be thankful for.

I just published a new E-book(Some of) My Adventures in Old Age(“Or ‘How NICE it was to travel, before COVID.’”) It’s published under my nom de plume, “James B. Ford.” The cover photo – at right – shows me in Jerusalem in May 2019, wearing a “shemagh.” Also called a keffiyeh, I got it at Ranger Joe’s in Ft. Benning before leaving for Israel. (To “blend in.”) I’m wearing it over my black Atlanta United ball cap, thus “blending in” the best of the old and new.

In the blurb I wrote for Amazon Kindle eBooks, I said this book should be timely – “in the middle of our Covid-19 pandemic” – because right now “lots of Americans can only dream about visiting such exotic locales in the future, when the crisis passes.”

I compared it to the 1920s and ‘30s, when so many Americans were fascinated by Hemingway’s books on France and Spain. (Like “The Sun Also Rises ” and “A Moveable Feast.”)

I’m guessing part of it was that back then most Americans could only DREAM of travel to such exotic places. (Like today with Covid…) Then too it may be because Hemingway gave all those exotic street names and local pubs and restaurants. Like my finding the “BEERBAZAAR,” in Jerusalem, in May 2019. Which makes me think I should have written down way more information when I was “over there.” Then I could do more what Hemingway did, vivid description. But I have something Hemingway didn’t have. GOOGLE MAPS!

Then too – aside from my May 2019 pilgrimage to Israel – the book includes chapters on hiking the Chilkoot Trail in 2016. (“Meanest 33 miles in history,” exemplified by the top photo.) Or hiking the Camino de Santiago, twice. The first time was in 2017. I met my brother in Pamplona – home of Hemingway’s Café Iruna – and together we hiked (and biked) the 450 miles to Santiago de Compostela. (He flew into Paris and hiked over the Pyrenees, but the Chilkoot Trail had cured me of any such wishes to go hiking over mountains again so soon.)

Incidentally, the last two chapters of the book are based on the last two (of three) posts I did in a companion blog: Here’s that second post on the Portuguese Camino, and “They sell beer at the McDonald’s in Portugal!” That “They sell beer” post was really long – “Word count 3450” – mostly because I had a lot to fit in. But, to balance things out I’ll make this post shorter.

The upshot is that I wrote about a lot of great adventures, but still had more to write about. Plus those I did cover I didn’t do full justice to. I did include one great memory from Israel:

May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv. The night before I fly home from Ben Gurion. Sitting at the bar in the basement of the Abraham Hostel, Levon St. 21. To my left, two travel buddies, Sam and Katie. Katie on my immediate left, Sam one seat over. To my right a young man who turned out to be a law student from Quebec. We got to talking, and I asked his name. He said “Silas.” So I started singing “Two was a-Paul and Silas!” Katie chimed in, “One was a little bitty baby,” then we both sang – in harmony – “Born, born, born in Bethlehem!”

(That was part of the chorus from “Children, Go Where I Send Thee.” As I wrote in the book, “for a kick-ass a cappella version, see the one by Little Big Town.)

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There’s more on all that later, but first a couple production notes on the E-book. First off, you’ll notice that on page 6 of the Introduction – right after the paragraph beginning “May 28, 2019, Tel Aviv” – the line spacing goes all kerflooey. From justified it goes to non-justified text, and the line spacing gets wider. It goes back to normal for the next one-line paragraph – “Then the COVID hit” – but the text stays non-justified through near the  middle of the next page. (It says page 6 again; there are apparently two “page 6’s.”) Then it goes back to justified text.

I tried correcting it, uploading a second and ostensibly-corrected Word document, but it stayed the same, kerflooey for a page or two. Another note: I had the “Observations” at the end of many chapters in italics and non-justified, as well as the notes at the end of the book. The program made all those justified type. And for the paperback version the publishing program required a minimum of 100 pages, so I had to add four pages to the original 96.

So I’ll try to upload a corrected version, with the additional four pages and with a proper note at the very end as to where to buy a paperback version. I’ll let you know how it goes…

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Meanwhile, back to the subject of the book not doing justice to all my adventures…

For one example, as to the Portuguese Camino hike: I only got “us” as far as the Casa Límia in Ponte de Lima. That’s only about a third of the way up to Santiago de Compostela. Then too I could only provide limited coverage of my pilgrimage to Israel, which I last covered in This time last year – in Jerusalem, in May 2020. And by the way, that post has a lot of those “image may contain” boxes, that used to be pictures I posted, to make the posts more interesting. And which in turn is a problem I address in the book. And that’s why I now use lead captions like “To see more images of the ‘meanest 33 miles in history,’ go to Chilkoot Trail – Image Results.” That makes it much easier to transmogrify these blog-posts into future picture-less book chapters.

And about that Jerusalem trip. I described the Leonardo Moria Hotel, a short walk from St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House, with a lounge sometimes functioning as a piano bar. (Once even having a yarmulke-topped pianist playing the Chicken Dance.) That turned out to be a favorite watering hole, not just for me but eventually many of my fellow pilgrims at St. George’s. (One night, for a birthday, “we” had 17 pilgrims there. I should have gotten a commission…)

So one point of this “limited coverage” is that in the future I’ll have to do at least one Sequel. (Tentatively titled “(More of) My Adventures in Old Age.”) In it I hope to add more oversea-travel adventures, including a return to St. George’s in Jerusalem. (Once we kick COVID’s ass.)

Stay tuned!!!

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The upper image is courtesy of Chilkoot Trail – Image Results. See also Explore the Chilkoot Trail – Klondike Gold Rush. The lower image is courtesy of St George’s College Jerusalem – Image Results

Re: Past posts on Thanksgiving. See On the first Thanksgiving – Part I and Part II, On Thanksgiving 2015, On Thanksgiving – 2016, On Thanksgiving – 2017, and On Thanksgiving 2019. (Did I skip 2018?)