Category Archives: Pilgrimage

St. Mary, “Virgin,” and more on Jerusalem…

Sassoferrato - Jungfrun i bön.jpg

Mary (mother of Jesus) responded to the Holy Spirit’s call “to set out on a mission of charity…”

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Thursday August 15 was the Feast Day of St. Mary the Virgin, as celebrated in the Episcopal Church.   See August 2014’s St. Mary, Mother, and also Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia:

She is identified [as] the mother of Jesus through divine intervention.  Christians hold her son Jesus to be Christ (i.e., the messiah) and God the Son Incarnate.  Mary (Maryam) also has a revered position in Islam, where a whole chapter of the Qur’an is devoted to her, also describing the birth of Jesus. . .   [She] is considered by millions to be the most meritorious saint of the Church.  Christians of the Catholic Church[,] Anglican Communion, and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as Mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God and the Theotokos, literally “Bearer of God.”

There’s more on Mary in the August 14 post.  Meanwhile, in getting this post ready I found a draft-post on my recent three-week pilgrimage to Israel, starting with my second full day in Jerusalem. (May 13. See too On my first full day in Jerusalem.) But since I’m starting another overseas pilgrimage in under two weeks,* I should probably get this one out of the way.

For starters, we arrived Saturday night and the driver from St. George’s got us quickly through the dreaded Israeli security at Ben Gurion airport.  But then had a tough time finding my lodging on Al-Isfahani Street.  Later, after settling in my new room, at 4:10 that morning I heard what I took to be an explosion.  It was actually a cannon, marking the start of another day of Ramadan.  (The idea is to give people a chance to eat and drink before the all-day fast.)

That Sunday I wandered Jaffa Street and found a great place to eat, the BeerBazaar.

hasmon1About noon Monday I hooked up at the St. George’s Pilgrim Guest House and met up with my fellow course pilgrims. (Including the nine I flew over with.)  Tuesday featured lectures, orientation and a walk to the Pool of Bethesda in the Old City.  On Wednesday we visited the southeast part of the wall around the Old City.  (The “City of David,” from where we could look east across Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives.)  We slithered through Hezekiah’s tunnel – shown at right, it’s very long, dark and damp – and came out at the Pool of Siloam.  Then we visited the Hasmonean tombs.

That afternoon I took off.  The group was scheduled to visit the Holocaust Memorial.  However, I was familiar with that episode of man’s inhumanity to man from my youthful studies in Judaica (Including – in 1969 – considering the Israeli Army as an alternative to the draft.)  So I wandered back to Davidka Square  – and the liquor store I found Sunday.  I got a bottle of Sommelier, for some brandies-and-water back in my room at night.

Thursday May 16 we visited Ein Kerem, the Church of the Visitation and Mary’s spring.  After lunch at the “Tent Restaurant, Beit Sahour,” we visited the Church of the Nativity and St. Jerome’s chapel and tomb, both in Bethlehem.  The church was both packed and crowded.

There we stood a long while, waiting to do a hump-through-a-tunnel extension of the tour.  It was then I noticed a fellow pilgrim in danger of getting stressed out by all the crowds and noise.  So I did a Good-Samaritan thing – kind of – and persuaded him to join me at the garden restaurant next door – and have a prophylactic Taybeh (Palestinian) beer.  I wrote later:

In situations like this you have to pick your battles.  It’s always seemed to me that finding a spiritual “pilgrimage” breakthrough usually comes in relative solitude, not when you’re surrounded and jostled by hordes of hot, sweaty and pushy “fellow travelers.”

walledoffmurraySpeaking of which, the theme of the Visitation to Mary was “Mary responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit to set out on a mission of charity.”  But I didn’t see a whole lot of charity in the visit we made at the END of the day.

That is, we ended the day at the Wall of Separation, also known as the “Israeli West Bank barrier.”  And in a bit of sarcasm – or irony – we stopped at the “Walled Off Hotel.”  (Shown above left.  Luckily, the hotel included a bar, where I enjoyed another Taybeh Palestinian beer.)

See Banksy′s hotel with ′the world′s worst view′ opens in Bethlehem, which said this:

“With a play on words on the luxury Waldorf Astoria chain, this place is called the Walled Off Hotel, because it was built almost immediately next to Israel’s separation wall in the Palestinian-ruled city where Jesus Christ was born.”

Which of course would be Bethlehem, where Jesus was born and “God’s love, mercy, righteousness, holiness, compassion, and glory” were expressed in Him.

But seeing the Walled-off Hotel in His birthplace, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Later that night I had a first experience doing wash-and-wear clothes in the shower, then taking them to the rooftop terrace to hang them out to dry.  During the day it gets “hot as Gehenna” in Jerusalem, but at night it’s generally quite pleasant.  Cool and breezy, “Up on the Roof…”

Then I had my shot or two of brandy and water.

Later still I did some reflecting on the day, and especially the last visit.  I was tempted to conclude that the road to both freedom and spiritual enlightenment seems to be littered with dumbasses along the way.  But hey, that wouldn’t be Christian…

And for those thinking that my free-time was focused ONLY on swilling beer:  I was also doing a weekly overseas alternate exercise program.  (In what free time we had.)  Specifically, a week’s quota of two hours of yoga (1.86) and four hours of calisthenics (3.8), for a total of five hours and 40 minutes.  Plus 500 half-pushups (making adjustments for being old), and 1,000 (that’s ONE THOUSAND) ab crunches.  So I wasn’t ONLY swilling beer in my spare time…

That covers the Jerusalem visit to Friday, May 17, when we visited the Judean wilderness, the Jordan River and Jericho.  (Modern and ancient Jericho, Tel es-Sultan.”)  I’ll be writing more on my visit to Israel from that point on, but first I have to get ready for my visit to Portugal…

Where hopefully I won’t find any “Walls of Separation…” 

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wallsep1

That look about says it all…

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The upper image is courtesy of Mary (mother of Jesus) – Wikipedia.

The Mary’s image at the start of the main text is courtesy of Mary’s Spring Ein Karem – Image Results.

The quote on Jesus, Bethlehem and “Walled-of” is from Deep Significance of the Birth of Jesus Christ.

Re:  “Overseas pilgrimage in under two weeks.”  I fly to Lisbon on August 28.

I took the photograph at the end of the main text.  (“Lower image courtesy of…”)  A fellow St. George’s pilgrim took the photo of the Walled-off Hotel, left of the paragraph beginning, “Speaking of which.”  I also took the photograph of that “Hasmonean tombs” slither-though. 

St. James – and “my next great pilgrimage…”

Camino Portugués – one of many Camino(s) de Santiago – that will be “my next great adventure…”

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Last Thursday, July 25, was the feast day for James, son of Zebedee, one of the Twelve Apostles.  Tradition adds that he was the first apostle to be martyred, some time around 44 A.D.

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

For more on this James see Wikipedia, or the post St. James (“10/23”) – and the 7 blind men (Illustrated at left.)

That post noted that October 23 is the Feast Day for another James, the brother of Jesus.  Which can be confusing.  (Not least of all because there were as many as six or eight “Jameses” in the Bible.)  Again, “James (’10/23′)” and see also “Hola! Buen Camino!”  (From October 2017.)

[I]n case you’re confused – about the number of “Jameses” in the Bible –  there are at least three men named James in the New Testament, and possibly as many as eight.  (See “BIO of Philip and James…”)   In that list, James the Just (“Brother of Jesus”) is listed third.  James the Less – possibly the “son of Alphaeus” – is listed second.  Listed first is St. James the Greater – “for whom the Camino de Santiago* is named,” and who is in fact the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  Which is something I mentioned in my last post, On a pilgrimage in Spain.

Which brings up my next pilgrimage.  In 2017 – and as noted in the paragraph above – my Utah brother and I hiked (and biked) the most popular “Camino,” the French Way (In my case, to Santiago de Compostela from Pamplona. where among other things we drank at the Café Iruna of Ernest Hemingway fame – a “whole ‘nother story.”)  But a month from now – September 2, 2019 – my brother and I will start hiking the 140 or so miles, from Porto “back” up to Santiago.*  Via the Portuguese Way, and this time we’ll be joined by my Utah sister-in-law.

On a related note see Feast of Saint James the Apostle in Spain – timeanddate.com:

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

Map of GaliciaThe article noted that July 25 is a public holiday in “Basque Country, Cantabria, and Galicia, where it’s a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.”  (A side note:  The “autonomous community” – or province – of Galicia, seen at right, is in northwestern Spain, and that’s where Santiago de Compostela lies, as the “provincial” capital.) 

The article added that:  1) according to Christian tradition this James may have traveled to the area now Santiago;  2) this James was beheaded in Judea in 44 CE, but also that 3) his disciples carried his body by sea to Padrón, on the Galician coast.  Then they  buried his body “under what is now the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.”

Which is why it’s popular as a hiking-slash-pilgrimage route.  On a related note, see On Mary of Magdala and James the Greater, Saints.  Aside from noting – again – that this “July 25” James is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims, the post also cited 2016’s St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts:

The point being that I’ve gone on a few pilgrimages in my time, and am fixing to go on another one this September…  And in the Sluts post, I noted that in the spiritual literature of Christianity, the concept of pilgrim and pilgrimage may refer to “the inner path of the spiritual aspirant from a state of wretchedness to a state of beatitude…”

Another side note:  It’s better to hike the Camino – in Spain or Portugal – during a month like September, as we did in 2017 and will do again this year.  It’s less hot and “touristy.”

See also “On to Jerusalem,” a post about last May’s pilgrimage to Israel:

[A] pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.  [Like] hour after hour of butt-numbing, back-aching canoe-paddling[, for days on end.  Or during the 2017 Camino trip where] the chief ordeal was hour after hour of hiking, much of it across the dry and dusty Meseta of northern Spain.  Which meant sore achy feet and blister upon blister…  So the question for the upcoming trip to Jerusalem:  “What part of the trip will help me ‘find a sense of my fragility as a mere human being?’”  And “What part of the trip will be ‘most chastening, and also most liberating?’”

And which are some pretty good questions for my upcoming nine-hour flight to Lisbon, and from there to Porto, where three American pilgrims will hike north to Santiago…

So stay tuned!  I’ll be posting “further bulletins as events warrant!”

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Calvin and Hobbes

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The upper image is courtesy of Portuguese Camino De Santiago – Image Results.  The image is accompanied therein by a page “Camino de Santiago – Portuguese Way,” put up by “REI,” that is, Recreational Equipment, Inc.  See also Camino Portugués – Camino de Santiago.

Re:  On “St. James the Greater.”  As noted in the main text, that post included some regrettable errors about which “James” was involved.  On that note, and according to Wikipedia and other sources, “In the Episcopal Church of the U.S.A. and Lutheran Church, James, brother of Jesus and martyr is commemorated on October 23.”  But again, the Feast Day for James the Greater is July 25.

On the “Santiago.”  Iago is the Spanish form of the name “James,” itself a variation, a “a modern descendant of Iacobus, the Latin form of the Hebrew name Jacob.  James is a popular name worldwide, but it is most commonly seen in English-speaking populations.”  Other Spanish variations include “Yago” and “Diego.”  Thus the town of “Saint Iago.”  James (name) – Wikipedia.

Re:  Miles from Porto to Santiago.  Google Maps had three routes, with two going through Pontevedra, as we will.  One of the two routes is 134 miles, the other 141.

Re:  John Steinbeck and “sluts.”  The “sluts” at issue were mentioned by Robert Louis Stevenson in his ground-breaking 1879 work Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes.  It was considered a “pioneering classic of outdoor literature,” and it inspired Steinbeck‘s 1962 book, Travels with Charley.

Re:  My last-May trip to Israel.  See On my first full day in Jerusalem, and “Back from three weeks in Israel.”  See also “If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem,” for some pre-trip research I did in April.

The lower image is courtesy of James, son of Zebedee – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”

On a wedding in Hadley – and John, Peter and Paul…

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist-Caravaggio (1610).jpg

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, meaning you sometimes have to “pay the price…”

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Some two weeks ago or so I got back from three weeks in Israel(A post followed by My first full day in Jerusalem.)  Then right away I had to make a dramatic transition:  From free-wheeling world traveler to “weird uncle of the bride.”  Which is being interpreted:

Town Hall and First Congregational ChurchAfter my adventures in Tel Aviv – getting lost hiking to the train station, taking the wrong train (away from the airport) and going 26 hours without sleep – I had to begin preparing for an 1,100 mile road trip up to Hadley, MA.

There my “favorite niece from Utah” was getting married.

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There will be more on that happy event later, but first…  It’s time for me to remember the main theme of this blog, “exploring the mystical side of Bible reading.”  Which means in large part remembering the particular liturgical feast days, either coming up or just past.  In this case, the feast day for two saints, Peter and Paul, is coming up tomorrow, June 29.  And the feast day for the Nativity of John the Baptist, happened just last Monday, June 24.

For fuller treatments see Nativity of John the Baptist (2015)Peter, Paul – and other “relics” (also from 2015), or John the Baptist, Peter and Paul – 2016.  But here are the highlights:

One key for John the Baptist:  He became that voice crying in the wilderness, as noted in Matthew 3:3:  This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’

http://www.dralionkennels.com/images/newsflash.jpgWhich is another way of saying John the Baptist served as precursorforerunner or advance man for Jesus.  (As in,News Flash:  Jesus is on the way!“)  Or as it says in the Collect for the Day: “your servant John the Baptist … sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior.”

The Collect added that we too should follow John’s example, and “constantly speak the truth, boldly rebuke vice, and patiently suffer for the truth’s sake.”  (See Nativity of St. John.)  On the other hand we need to remember that doing that sometimes meaning “paying the price…”

As illustrated in the painting at the top of the page…

http://www.canvasreplicas.com/images/Two%20Scholars%20Disputing%20Peter%20and%20Paul%20Rembrandt%20van%20Rijn.jpgThen Peter, Paul – and other “relics” tells how these two apostles got martyred near the same time, and about the “translation of relics.”  (Which here meant moving – temporarily – “the remains of the two apostles” to keep them from being desecrated.)  But the main point is this:  Even though Peter and Paul came to argue vehemently over certain points of doctrine – as shown at left – they still worked together to spread the Gospel.  Which led to this thought:

Some Christians seem to think they have to be all “nicey-nicey,” all the &%#$ time, with each other and with non-Christians.  But the Feast of Peter and Paul goes to show it’s okay to have differences of opinion, or even “squabble” from time to time…

And that for that matter, it’s okay to argue with God too…

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And now for that “favorite niece from Utah” getting married.  For a fuller treatment of the  1,100-mile road trip by which I got up to that happy event, see On a wedding in Hadley(From my companion blog.)  But again, here are some highlights.

One highlight involves the photo between the main text and notes below, of the wedding rehearsal Friday, June 21.  The father of the bride is practice-walking his daughter down the aisle made by two rows of chairs inside the massive tent in the front yard of the parents of the groom.  Although the bride-to-be’s looking back could be interpreted as having some deep symbolic meaning, that definitely wasn’t the case.  And the “cherub” seen in part just ahead of the father-and-bride belonged to one of the bridesmaids.  (So no hidden meaning there.) 

The Light That FailedBut of course all that was preceded by getting down to work on Thursday.  While the main wedding party worked on “favors,”  I helped by staying out of the way.  (As in “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way.”)  And by reading a first (1908) edition of Kipling’s “The Light That Failed.”  (Another version shown at right.) 

But I made up for it on Friday, by helping set up a tent-full of tables and chairs.  Then the wedding rehearsal finally started.  (A good bit after the scheduled 6:00 p.m. start time, but then the happy couple was definitely “not hung up on that deadline thing!”) 

Then came the final preparations, all during the morning and early-afternoon of Saturday, wedding day, June 22.  Then came the count-down:  4:52 p.m. “It shan’t be long now!”  Then the Officiant getting some last-minute instructions, as shown by a photo in the notes below.

And finally – at or about 5:43 p.m. – it became official.  They were married!

And then – It was TIME TO DANCE!

(As shown by a second photo in the notes below.)  

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rehearsalwalk

Wedding rehearsal.  (No “body-language hidden meaning…”)

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The upper image is courtesy of Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, (Wikipedia) by Michelangelo Marisi Caravaggio (1571-1621) “circa” 1621:  “His paintings combine a realistic observation of the human state, both physical and emotional, with a dramatic use of lighting…”

lastminuteinstructionsThe Wikipedia caption for the Hadley MA image is “Town Hall and First Congregational Church.”  The “Officiant getting some last-minute instructions” photo – which I took – is shown at right. 

The Peter-and-Paul image is courtesy of canvasreplicas/Rembrandt.  See also Two Scholars Disputing by REMBRANDT Harmenszoon van Rijn.

Re:  The “(1908) edition of Kipling’s ‘The Light That Failed.’”  The future in-laws had quite the book collection in their lovely home…

I took the lower-photo image on June 21, 2019.

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dancepicAs noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes.  But first, my “time to dance” photo-image is shown at left.

Back to the 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 on these themes, see the end-of-notes for the most recent post…

On my first full day in Jerusalem…

 The BeerBazaar – on “Etz Hayyim 3,” in Jerusalem – where I got my first real meal that day…   

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

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

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

SGtower2My last post – Back from three weeks in Israel – discussed just returning from 18 or 19 days (depending on time-change calculations) in the “Holy Land.”  I’d taken part in a course at St. George’s College, the “Palestine of Jesus.”  The photo at right shows the bell tower, looking west from the balcony of my room.

But that last post talked about the end of the trip.

It talked about the most recent ‘cluster’ – half a word – part of the pilgrimage.”  (The day I flew home – Wednesday, May 29 – which began by “getting lost in Tel Aviv,” then spending 26 hours without sleep – for reasons including the time change – before I got back home.)

This post will detail the beginning of the trip, from the time I arrived at Ben Gurion airport.

I flew over with a group of nine – of the 20 or so people from our local church.  (All told there were 40 people in the “Palestine of Jesus” course, from other places like Australia, Canada and England.)  For starters, we’d all been prepped to expect the worst from the vaunted Israeli airport security.  But lucky for us, the College sent a shuttle driver, complete with a sign, “St. George’s.”  From there the driver waltzed us through security and on to our shuttle bus.

There was a bit of a problem finding my lodging.  (We got there the evening of Saturday, May 11, so I’d had to get lodging for the two nights before the course started, on Monday evening, May 13.)  The driver found Al Isfahani Street all right, but had no clue as to the whereabouts of “Herod’s Guest House.”  (Near Herod’s Gate, at left.)  But he eventually called the number on my reservation sheet, and shortly after that the proprietor met us and walked me “home.”  (The sign was pretty well hidden.)  Once settled, I wandered up and around to the namesake Herod’s Gate, looking for a cold beer, but had no luck.

Then came these thoughts – from the middle of the night – which I posted on Facebook:

Greetings from Jerusalem.  It’s 4:14 a.m. Sunday morning here, 9:14 p.m Saturday night back in ATL (Atlanta).  I just heard what sounded like an explosion outside my hole-in-the-wall guesthouse on Al-Isfahani Street at 4:08 a.m.  I’ll have to check that out later…  I’m suffering a bit of jet lag.  I went to sleep pretty quick, about 10:30 p.m. local, 3:30 in the afternoon on my body clock.  But then I woke up at about 2:30 a.m. local, and have been awake since.  SO ANYWAY, it’s been quiet since the 4:08 explosion, 22 minutes ago.  (And BTW, I’m about a block away from the local police station.)  So I’m gonna try and go back to sleep.

Later on I woke up at 10:30 a.m. local time (3:30 a.m. ATL time), after finally getting back to sleep.  Then I wandered up Saladin* Street and eventually found out where I’m supposed to be Monday evening.  (The Pilgrim Guest House that is, not the Cathedral or the School.*)

But I had a tough time finding a place to get a snack, or coffee – nobody seemed to speak English – but did stop at one little shop and got a “Tapazina Mango soft drink.”  Then I headed out “No’omi Kiss and Ha-Neviim” streets.  I was trying to find the bars I’d located – before I left – on Google Maps.  And hopefully some place to eat that “talked American.”

I wandered around – starting near the Old City and on up Jaffa Street – from 12:30 to 5:15 p.m. local time.  Eventually I got over and onto Ha-Neviim Street and west on Jaffa Street, up as far as Sarei Israel Boulevard.  (Close to where Herzl comes in to Jaffa.)  There I found a liquor store at Davidka Square, seen at right.  I asked about a draft beer, but the guy indicated – in Hebrew – that I could only buy a bottle.  The one I got turned out to be a Belgian ale.  (With cherries and cherry juice in it; not bad).  I also got an Oreo ice cream sandwich. 

The combo wasn’t bad but I thought, “I came all the way to Israel just to get a frikkin’ Belgian ale?”  This was about 2:00 or so, and the ice cream was the only thing I’d eaten all day.

Along the way I stopped at a bank and got 200 New Israeli Shekels, which would help with haggling.  Then once I headed back from Sarei Israel, I found the place called “BeerBazaar.”  It’s close to Jaffa Street – “at Etz Hayyim 3” in local-ese – AND IT WAS KOSHER!

That turned out to be quite a treat.  I got two glasses of a “Negev” Israeli beer and an order of Hummus Olei Zion.  The menu said it was a “timeless Israeli dish to complement your Israeli beer.”  So I sat happily at my high-top table just outside the front door – after all that hiking and checking my street-map periodically – and watched the street life passing by.

The hummus, pita bread plus a side of sweet pickles and olives were pretty filling, and it cost a mere 33 shekels.  (About 11 dollars, including the two beers.)  I saved two slices of bread for later, as necessary.  (I finally threw the bread away some days later, at St. George’s.)

Then I came home and took a nap until about 7:00.  I was hoping the jet lag had been whipped, but then I heard another “explosion,” about 7:33 p.m. local.  I later found out those explosions were mere souped-up firecrackers.  (The Israelis won’t let the Muslims fire a real cannon.)  And they were merely alarm clocks, for Ramadan (As illustrated below left.)

The one at 4:08 in the morning let faithful Muslims know to get up and get something to eat and drink, before the all-day fast.  The one around 7:30 p.m. let them know the fast was over – and that they could finally have something to eat and drink.

Later on that busy Sunday, May 12, I hiked up to St. George’s again, but the front gates were all locked up.  Which was good for security, but didn’t do me any good.  (I wanted to see if any other pilgrims from St. Andrews had arrived.)  But from there I shunted over to the Leonardo Moria Classic hotel, a mere .2 (point 2) miles to the west.  It was pretty swanky, AND it had a bar.  And a piano bar – some guy playing piano – at that.

There I got a short Heineken’s first, mostly because I couldn’t read the other two draft-beer choices.  But after further questioning and banter with the bartender, it turned out that one of the other draft choices was the Maccabee Israeli beer I’d heard so much about.

It turned out to be mostly old people in the bar area, but still interesting to watch the local give-and-take, and while enjoying the piano playing.  After that I wended my way home, back to Herod’s Guest House on Isfahani Street, after two beers and kibbutzing at “the Leonardo.”

I’d just come in the guest house when I met “Greta,” doing some laundry.  Despite the German name, it turned out she was from Italy.  She was there as an exchange student and staying at Herod’s awhile to write a book.  So I offered that maybe I could visit her some time over the next two weeks, and maybe we could have a Starbucks and discuss international politics…

And the evening and the morning were the first day – in Jerusalem…

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wallsep1

Looking ahead, to our visit to the Wall of Separation

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The upper image is courtesy of BeerBazaar.  See also Beerbazaar – Image Results.  A note, “Etz Hayyim 3” is near the intersection with Jaffa Street, part of the “Mahane Yehuda Covered Market.”

Re:  “Saladin Street.”  It’s actually “Salah e-Din” Street.

Re:  “Bars I found – before I left – on Google Maps.”  The subject of a future post, “The nightlife in Jerusalem.”  A side note:  I never did find the Hataklit Bar, which ostensibly offered karaoke.  It’s at “Heleni ha-Malka Street 7,” which definitely sounds Hawaiian, and may be why I never found it.

Re:  “The Pilgrim Guest House … not the Cathedral or the School.”  I discovered the difference around mid-day Sunday, the 12th.  Looking for the guest house, I wandered into the school area across Nablus Street.  Some Turkish-looking guy gave me a look that indicated “what the hell are you doing here?”  He didn’t speak English and I didn’t speak whatever he was talking.  However – perhaps taking pity – he DID make me a cup of strong Turkish-style coffee.  We sat in comradely silence while it was brewing, then he handed me the coffee and bid me adieu, after which I found the guest house.

Later that evening, I was walking back to Isfahani Street after my two beers and kibbutzing at the Leonardo bar.  (Catty-corner to St. George’s, about a two-minute walk.)  There’s a St. George’s gift shop on Nablus, across from the gated “Pilgrim” complex.  And who should be walking out the gift shop but the same friendly guy who made me a cup of coffee that morning?  So we waved at each other and a gesture of international friendship was thereby made.

I figured there was some kind of lesson there... 

Re:  Davidka Square.  The photo shows only a part of the Square, which memorializes the “Davidka,” a jury-rigged mortar:

In the early stages of the War of Independence [in 1948], the Israeli army had no artillery other than a primitive, homemade mortar that was not accurate but that made a thunderous explosion.  The noise from this weapon – called the Davidka (“Little David”) after its inventor, engineer David Leibovitch – often sent the enemy fleeing in panic…  The Israeli army used the Davidka exclusively until July 1948, when it was able to acquire conventional artillery such as mountain howitzers, cannons and field guns.

Above left is a better view of the Square, at night, with its benches and adjoining stores.

The “Ramadan” image is courtesy of Ramadan Cannon – Image Results The image is accompanied by a Tom Powers — VIEW FROM JERUSALEM article, “Jerusalem’s Ramadan Cannon, Then & Now.”  The article includes a description of the photo at issue, dated 1918, “from a personal album compiled by John D. Whiting of the American Colony.”  The photo features “Gordon’s Calvary, a hilltop just northeast of Damascus Gate.”  Further, it looks “east toward the Mount of Olives-Scopus ridge, [and] the people pictured are locals in traditional dress.”  (“Gordon’s Calvary” is also known as the Garden Tomb or the “rock-cut tomb in Jerusalem, which was unearthed in 1867 and is considered by some Christians to be the site of the burial and resurrection of Jesus.”  See Garden Tomb – Wikipedia.)

The lower image is a photo I took…  The “Wall of Separation” is also called the Israeli West Bank barrier, i.e., the “separation barrier in the West Bank or along the Green Line.  Israel considers it a security barrier against terrorism, while Palestinians call it a racial segregation or apartheid wall.”  Some 440 miles long, it “cuts at times 18 kilometres (11 mi) deep into the West Bank, isolating about 9% of it, leaving an estimated 25,000 Palestinians isolated from the bulk of that territory…  The barrier was built during the Second Intifada that began in September 2000, and was defended by the Israeli government as necessary to stop the wave of violence inside Israel that the uprising had brought with it.”  As a side note, “The International Court of Justice issued an advisory opinion stating that the barrier is a violation of international law.  In 2003, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution that stated the wall contradicts international law and should be removed; the vote was 144–4 with 12 abstentions.”  (Wikipedia.)

And I never did see Greta again…

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Back from three weeks in Israel…”

.

Night-dining area, St. George’s College.  (28 shekels at the lower-left bar gets you a Taybeh…)

*   *   *   *

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

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

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

Image may contain: one or more people, people standing, people sitting, child, hat and outdoorI did my last post on May 2.  Since then I spent three weeks – 18 or 19 days – on a pilgrimage in Israel.  (Including traveling to and from.  I left the night of May 10 and got back the night of May 29.) 

It was part of a course given by St. George’s College, Jerusalem.  

A side note:  For visits to many churches and all Muslim areas in Jerusalem, you’re expected to “dress modestly.”  Ladies showing bare knees – like those at right – get brown cover-leg skirts.

The Jerusalem experience was wonderful, overwhelming, intimidating and enlightening.  But let’s start with the most recent “cluster” – half a word – part of the pilgrimage that happened.  It occurred on Wednesday, May 29, the day I spent 11 hours flying back home.  (And, considering the time change, 26 hours straight without sleep before I got back home.)

The problem was that I got all cocky from the day before, when I’d made an easy connection from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv.  (On Monday the 28th.)  That is, after parting ways with the other pilgrims in my church group, I made a fairly-easy two-mile trek from the College to the central bus station in Jerusalem.  (Lugging 30 pounds in a back-pack and large gym-bag to be checked at the airport.)  Then from the Tel Aviv bus station I hiked a “mere” mile, to my night’s lodging at “Yavne 26.”  (They list the street number last.)  On the way I managed a visit to the Haganah Museum, right around the corner from Yavne 26, at “Rothschild Boulevard 23.”

Later that evening I managed to hook up with eight or nine fellow pilgrims from Georgia, who – unbeknownst to me – were staying at the Abraham Hostel in Tel Aviv, two or three blocks from my place.  (And despite the fact that the guy at the front desk wouldn’t take a message, let alone make contact, so I had to check the local eateries, and found them basically across the street.)

Unfortunately my visit to the bar at Abraham’s was cut short because I was all hyped up to get to Ben Gurion airport early enough to get through the vaunted Israeli airport security.  All the guides said that you should get to the airport at least three hours ahead of time, so since my flight was at 9:55, I figured I should be at the airport by 6:55 a.m.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing and outdoorAnother side note:  Gentlemen who wear shorts – or otherwise show their knees at “many churches and all Muslim areas in the city” – are also given “skirts.”  (Like the two dumbasses at left.)

So anyway, to get to the airport on time, I got up at 4:00 a.m. and started hiking back to the Haganah train station on Levinsky Street.  (Where I’d just hiked up the previous day.)  But I missed the intersection – “wool-gathering” I suppose – and had to double back.  As it turned out I hiked an hour – with the same 30 pounds of baggage – but got to the train station right about six a.m.

Then the real trouble started…

I got a ticket easily, but only after gashing my left forearm.  (I was rushing to “unpack” at yet another security check-point, just inside the train-station entrance.)  To make the lugging easier I’d tied together the upper arm straps of my pack with a knotted handkerchief, but after a sweaty hour’s walk it got “un-tieable.”  So to get the pack off I had to lift it up over my head, and in the process gashed my forearm.  And got blood all over the upper-leg portion of my jeans.  (I could just hear Israeli security:  “And where have you been to get all that blood all over you?”)

Then I got on the wrong train.  It was on Platform 3, like the ticket guy said, but it ended up going the wrong direction.  The train I got on – at the wrong time, it turned out – went to Lod.  That’s a beautiful city 9.3 miles southeast of Tel Aviv, but it’s not the Ben Gurion airport.

Once I found that out – after finding someone who spoke English – it seemed like forever to get back to the central station.  On the way a friendly uniformed Israeli suggested I take a taxi from the central station; about 65 shekels, or 22 dollars.  I was all set to do that, but getting off the train another Israeli – in blue jeans and flip-flops – fell down right behind me, missing the first step down.  I helped him up and asked if he was all right.  Then he asked if I was trying to get to the airport.  (He probably overheard my plaintive cries for directions somewhere along the way.)

He helped me get on the right train, the 7:09 going in the right direction, so I suppose there’s a lesson there.  Then while waiting for the 7:09 train, two lovely young Israelis in brown uniforms sat next to me while we waited.  (Incidentally, I’d done a lot of praying on the train to and from Lod.)  Then the 7:09 got delayed an extra six or seven minutes, so I got to enjoy their company even longer.  (Another note:  Tel Aviv in general was a nice change from Jerusalem, appreciating-the-opposite-sex-wise.  I.e., there were fewer women all covered up with burkas and such.)

That pleasant “accompaniment” wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t gotten on the wrong train, going the wrong direction, so I suppose there’s a spiritual object lesson lesson there too…

The end result was that despite getting to the airport at 7:35 a.m. – instead of 6:55 like I should have – I got through the numerous layers of the “vaunted Israeli airport security” in plenty of time to get to Gate C-6.  (I had time to relax for 30 or 40 minutes, and finally have some breakfast:  Mango juice and a “lox” croissant.)  And to remember the time I’d just spent in the company of two lovely Israeli Female Soldiers (Not unlike the one shown below, from 1948.)

I’ll be writing more – lots more – on other lessons learned (and experiences experienced) from my pilgrimage to Israel.  But for now it’s enough to enjoy the comforts of home once again.  Here, on the functional equivalent of “my own back doorsteps,” I can – a la  John Steinbeck – finally come to think about all I’ve seen in the last three weeks, then “try to arrange some pattern of thought to accommodate the teeming crowds of my seeing and hearing.”  In other words, to make some sense of all I’ve seen, heard and experienced those last three weeks.

At least until my next pilgrimage, to the Camino Portugues in September…

*   *   *   *

A “Haganah female officer in 1948…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of St. George’s College Jerusalem Israel – Image Results.  See also Home | Saint George’s College Jerusalem, for more on available courses and staff members.  The course in question was “The Palestine of Jesus.”  (See the link at the “Home” page.) 

Re: Taybeh.  See Taybeh Brewery – Wikipedia, on the “Palestinian brewery founded in 1994[, at] the West Bank village of Taybeh,” 22 miles north of Jerusalem.  “It produced its first beer in 1995 and has since developed a global following.  It is the first microbrewery in the Middle East.”  The other beer available to St. George pilgrims is “Maccabee,” brewed by Tempo Beer Industries “Maccabee (Hebrew: מכבי‎) is a 4.9% ABV pale lager that was first brewed in 1968.  It is distributed in Israel and is also marketed in the United States and Europe.”  I found Maccabee on draft at the LEONARDO MORIA CLASSIC HOTEL, Jerusalem 9 Georges St., a mere four-minute walk from St. George’s.

Re:  Cover-leg skirts.  Ladies are also cautioned not to have bare shoulders or visible cleavage.

Re:  “Vaunted airport security.”  The link is to What To Expect At Israel’s Airport Security. | Bemused Backpacker.  See also Leaving Tel Aviv: My Experience Through Airport Security, or you could Google “vaunted Israeli airport security.”  Also, I found out the next  morning – Thursday the 30th, at home – that Lod is actually pretty close to Ben Gurion airport.  It’s a little over two miles as the crow flies, but walking the route involves “restricted usage or private roads.”  See also Lod Airport massacre – Wikipedia, about the “terrorist attack [on] May 30, 1972, in which three members of the Japanese Red Army … attacked Lod Airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) near Tel Aviv.”

Now they tell me!!!

Yet another note:  “Wadie Haddad, the primary organizer of the attack, was assassinated by Mossad in early 1978.”  (Those guys don’t fool around.)

Re:  Accompaniment.  In the sense of “something incidental or added for ornament, symmetry, etc.”  See Definition of Accompaniment at Dictionary.com.

The Steinbeck reference is to the Penguin Books paperback version of Travels with Charley:  In search of America, detailing his 1960 road trip travelogue, at pages 108-109.  He described the feeling – “like constipation” – of being overwhelmed by his experiences, as in going to the “Uffizi in Florence [or] the Louvre in Paris.”  In yet another memorable passage he made an apt comparison:

Maybe understanding is only possible after.  Years ago when I used to work in the woods it was said of lumber men that they did their logging in the whorehouse and their sex in the woods.  So I have to find my way through the exploding production lines of the Middle West while sitting alone beside a lake in northern Michigan. [Emphasis added.] 

Re:  The Camino Portugués, also called the “Portuguese Way.”  It’s the collective name of the “Camino de Santiago pilgrimage routes starting in Portugal,” beginning in either Porto or Lisbon (My companions and I will be starting in Porto.)  As Wikipedia noted, the Portuguese Way is the “second most popular route after the French Way,” which my Utah brother and I hiked-and-biked in 2017.  See – from October 2017 – “Hola! Buen Camino!”  A review of the post shows that some of my pictures got  “screwed up…”  But it’s still good for reference and informational purposes.

The lower image is courtesy of Haganah – Wikipedia.  Caption:  “Haganah female officer in 1948.”  For more on the topic, Google “Israeli women soldiers brown uniform.”  That led me to sites like Pictures of Israeli Female Soldiers In and Out of Uniform, Israeli female soldiers are not afraid to reveal their assets, and 18 Pics Of Hot Israeli Army Girls IDF | Female Supermodel.  

*   *   *   *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem…”

By the waters of Babylon,” in exile, where a Hebrew Remnant finalized the Old Testament…

*   *   *   *

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

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

And this thought ties them together:

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

In the meantime:

As noted in “On to Jerusalem,” this upcoming May 10th I’ll be flying to Jerusalem for a two-week  pilgrimage (As part of a local church group.)  To that end, I’ve been listening to a series of lectures-on-CD, The World of Biblical Israel | The Great Courses Plus.

And in the process of doing this post, I stumbled on a Jerusalem Post article that tied in to a point the professor made in Lecture 2, “By the Rivers of Bablyon – Exile.”  The article:  If I Forget Thee, Oh Jerusalem:

There is an almost natural magnetic draw to Jerusalem that stirs within us a special emotion. For millions of people around the world the heart of ancient Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, symbolizes spirituality and mysticism, a place of prayer and miracles, the centre of the world and a holy portal to God.

Note the “spirituality and mysticism” part, which ties in with frequent themes of this post.  (That the “spiritual path” has more to offer than the “literal path.*”)  But the point here is this:  The title of that article is from Psalm 137:5-6:  “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.”  (That’s from the King James Version; the Bible God uses.)  

Which just happened to tie in with the Biblical Israel Lecture 2, described further below.

See also Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, which described “Nebuchadnezzar II‘s successful siege of Jerusalem in 597 BC.”  That ended up with the people of Judah being “deported to Babylonia, where they were held captive until some time after the Fall of Babylon,” in 539 BC:

In English it [Psalm 137] is generally known as “By the rivers of Babylon,” which is how its first words are translated in the King James Version…  The psalm is a communal lament about being in exile after the Babylonian captivity, and yearning for Jerusalem.  The psalm is a regular part of Jewish, Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant liturgies.  It has been set to music often, and was paraphrased in hymns.

So anyway, 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.”

According to Professor Chapman, Psalm 137 constitutes both the mid-point – the very middle – of years of Ancient Jewish history, and also the very middle of Bible itself.*  And Psalm 137 came at precisely the time when the books of the Hebrew Bible – the Old Testament – were collected, edited and redacted.  And it all came about because of the Exile, that “national disgrace.”

That is, the Old Testament as we know it didn’t exist before 586 B.C., the year many Judeans were taken from their homeland.  (After the horrors of the Babylonian conquest.)  Then they went through a “death march,” 800 miles to Babylon, during which many of the Remnant died along the way.  (Those who weren’t executed during the post-siege “mop up.”)  After those horrors – and the shame of this national disgrace – they compiled, edited and shaped their collected national stories into a “virtual library.”  A library that connected them to their homeland.

In other words, before the calamity of the Exile, many books (in the form of scrolls) existed, but “here is where they were first collected into what we know as the Old Testament today.”

Eadwine psalter - Trinity College Lib - f.243v.jpgThat idea was mirrored in Babylon captivity, at Psalm 137 – Wikipedia:

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

The link-article went on to say the period of exile “was a rich one for Hebrew literature.”  For example, the Book of Jeremiah 39–43 saw the exile “as a lost opportunity.”  Also, the “Priestly source, one of the four main sources of the Torah/Pentateuch in the Bible, is primarily a product of the post-exilic period,” while also “during this Persian period, the final redaction of the Pentateuch purportedly took place.”

I’ve written before about Moses writing the Torah – the first five books of the Bible – during and right after the 40 years of “wandering in the wilderness.”  (See e.g. On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down,” and My Lenten meditation.)  Which would mean those first five books of the Bible were written some time before 1,400 B.C., about the time Moses died. (What year did Moses die – answers.com.)  But it was only some 800 years later – and the product of a humiliating national disgrace – that the final version of the Old Testament as we know it came into being.

I’ll be writing more about Psalm 137 and “On to Jerusalem” in a later post.  In the meantime, here’s wishing you a happy Easter.  And a reminder that that joyous occasion could only come about after 40 days of Lenten “doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sins, almsgiving, and denial of ego.”  Not to mention a humiliating death on the cross.

You know, I’ll bet there’s a lesson that can be gleaned from all this…

*   *   *   *

James Tissot, “The Flight of the Prisoners,” from Jerusalem and on into exile…

*   *   *   *

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

About the photo to the right of the paragraph beginning, “As told in ‘On to Jerusalem:'”  From the Wikipedia article on Jerusalem, the caption reads:  “Israeli policemen meet a Jordanian Legionnaire near the Mandelbaum Gate (circa 1950).”

As to the “Great Course,” see also The World of Biblical Israel – English.  Other books I’m reading for the upcoming include Entebbe: A Defining Moment In the War On Terrorism, by Iddo Netanyahu.

As to the “piritual path being better than the literal path.  See John 4:24:  “God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  (See also Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers, which noted of God that “His will has been expressed in the seeking.  But His very nature and essence is spirit, and it follows from this that all true worship must be spiritual.”)  And of course 2d Corinthians 3:6, saying the letter of the law kills, “but the Spirit [of God’s law] gives life.”

Re:  Psalm 137:5-6.  See also Psalm 137:5 Commentaries: If I forget you…, and Psalm 137 – Commentary in Easy EnglishAlso, “137” is an Imprecatory Psalm See Wikipedia, on those  invoking “judgment, calamity, or curses, upon one’s enemies or those perceived as the enemies of God.”

Re:  “Babylon.”  See Wikipedia:  “The remains of the city are in present-day HillahBabil GovernorateIraq, about 85 kilometres (53 mi) south of Baghdad, comprising a large tell of broken mud-brick buildings and debris.”  There’s probably a lesson there too…

Re:  Psalm 137 as “the very middle of Bible itself.”  In my Good News Bible, Psalm 137 folds out pretty much right at the middle.  Also, it’s on page 687 of a combined 1,395 pages.  (1,041 for the Old Testament, 354 for the New Testament.)  The precise mid-point page would be “697.5.”

About the image to the right of the paragraph, “That idea was mirrored in Babylon captivity.”  From Psalm 137 – Wikipedia, it’s captioned “Psalm 137 in the Eadwine Psalter (12th century).”  

The lower image is courtesy of the Babylonian captivity link at Psalm 137 – Wikipedia.  The full caption:  “James TissotThe Flight of the Prisoners.”  That article added these notes:

In the Hebrew Bible, the captivity in Babylon is presented as a punishment for idolatry and disobedience to Yahweh in a similar way to the presentation of Israelite slavery in Egypt followed by deliverance. The Babylonian Captivity had a number of serious effects on Judaism and Jewish culture.  For example, the current Hebrew alphabet was adopted during this period, replacing the Paleo-Hebrew alphabet.

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

This process coincided with the emergence of scribes and sages as Jewish leaders (see Ezra). Prior to exile, the people of Israel had been organized according to tribe.  Afterwards, they were organized by smaller family groups.  Only the tribe of Levi continued in its temple role after the return.  After this time, there were always sizable numbers of Jews living outside Eretz Israel;  thus, it also marks the beginning of the “Jewish diaspora,…”

Also, as to Hebrews killed during the post-siege mop-up, see 2d Kings 25, verses 8-12:

On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard … came to Jerusalem.  He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem.  Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon.  But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.

Also verse 18-20, describing the number of prisoners taken, mostly high-ranking officials.  And verses 20-21:  “Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“On to Jerusalem!”

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

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And speaking of pilgrimages This May I’ll be making such a two-week journey to Jerusalem (As part of a local church group.)  On that note, Kenneth Clark – the noted British “art historian, museum director, and broadcaster” – discussed the origin of such spiritual journeys in his 1969 TV series, Civilisation (The following quotes are from the book version, at pages 40-42.)  

In Chapter 2 – “The Great Thaw” – Clark noted the “sudden reawakening of European civilization in the 12th century.” (That is, the years from 1101 to 1199 or so.)  He said that “great thaw” – the sudden spurt of growth in human development – did not come about from mere idle contemplation.  Instead it came as the result of action:  “a vigorous, violent sense of movement, both physical and intellectual.”

The physical – action – part took the form of pilgrimages; most often to Jerusalem.  That led in turn to the Crusades (“Traditionally, they [the Crusades] took place between 1095 and 1291;” and of course “the most important place of pilgrimage was Jerusalem.”)   But these early pilgrimages were not at all like our “cruises or holidays abroad” today.  For one thing they took a long time; often two or three years.  “For another, they involved real hardship and danger.”

That is, despite efforts to organize (“pilgrims used to go in parties of 7000 at a time”), “elderly abbots and middle-aged widows often died on the way to Jerusalem.”  (Note that our church group requires a doctor’s note from those over 70, saying they “must be able to walk three miles at once at a normal pace” – at least 2-and-a-half miles an hour – “without assistance from others.”)

Another difference:  Today such a pilgrimage is typically “a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs.”  But in those early days, the “point of a pilgrimage was to look at relics.”  (On that note, see 2015’s On Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”)

The belief in the “magic” of relics – Clark said – was a product of the Medieval Mind.  “The medieval pilgrim really believed that by contemplating a reliquary containing the head or even the fingers of a saint he would persuade that particular saint to intercede on his behalf with God.”  (Clark cited an example, Saint Foy, a “little girl of who in late Roman times” was put to death for refusing to worship idols, and then was “turned into one herself.”  That is, an idol.*)  

Portrait of Napoleon in his forties, in high-ranking white and dark blue military dress uniform. In the original image He stands amid rich 18th-century furniture laden with papers, and gazes at the viewer. His hair is Brutus style, cropped close but with a short fringe in front, and his right hand is tucked in his waistcoat.In other words, the man with a Medieval Mind believed that by going on a pilgrimage – and in the process venerating relics – he could “get good stuff from God.”  Which is of course the same incentive for many practicing Christians today.  (If not for those of any religion.)   Or as Napoleon put it, “Men are moved by only two things:  fear and self-interest.”

But we digress…  As seen in the links at the right of this page, I’ve devoted a whole category to Pilgrimages(Including – the summer of 2018 – I’m back from my Rideau pilgrimage, and – October 2017 – “Hola! Buen Camino!”) 

On the topic being discussed, the most relevant blog-post is probably On St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from September 2016.   That post pointed out that St. James the Greater is the Patron Saint of Pilgrims.  And it indicated that on a true pilgrimage – usually by and through “the raw experience of hunger, cold, lack of sleep” – we can “quite often find a sense of our fragility as mere human beings.”  And it noted that a true pilgrimage can be “one of the most chastening, but also one of the most liberating” of personal experiences.

In Back from Rideau, the chief ordeal was hour after hour of butt-numbing, back-aching canoe-paddling.  In Buen Camino the chief ordeal was hour after hour of hiking, much of it across the dry and dusty Meseta of northern Spain.  Which meant sore achy feet and blister upon blister.  (At least for the first 250 miles.  From León, we mountain-biked the remaining 200 miles.  Which just meant different parts of the body got sore, achy and/or blistered.)

So the question for the upcoming trip to Jerusalem:  “What part of the trip will help me ‘find a sense of my fragility as a mere human being?'”  And “What part of the trip will be ‘most chastening, and also most liberating?’”  Or maybe I’ll find somewhere a relic to venerate, and so in turn get some “good stuff from God.”  (Aside from being chastened and liberated…)

On that note: Stay tuned!  There may well be “further bulletins as events warrant!”

Calvin and Hobbes

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On another note, last Monday – March 25 – was the Feast of the Annunciation.  See The Annunciation “gets the ball rolling,” from March 2015.  The full title is the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the post showed how in this case the early Church “figured it backwards.”  That is, they started with the birth of Jesus on December 25, then figured backwards nine months.  Since they said Jesus was born on December 25, He had to have been “conceived” on the previous March 25.  That’s where the Annunciation comes in.

It celebrates “the announcement by the angel Gabriel to the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, marking his Incarnation.”  There’s more on the Incarnation in the post, along with how and why the Conception and Annunciation both got to happen on the same day.  Now, about that “getting the ball rolling.”

Technically the liturgical year – the church’s calendar year, illustrated at left – begins with Advent (December 1 or so), and goes through next November.  (When it starts all over again.)  But it could be argued that the liturgical year properly starts with the Annunciation; that is, the first moment when it became obvious that God would intervene on our behalf, by and through the birth, life and death of Jesus.

More to the point, the church year “sets out to attune the life of the Christian to the life of Jesus.”  (It’s not an “arbitrary arrangement of ancient holy days”):

It is an excursion into life from the Christian perspective [and] proposes to help us to year after year immerse ourselves into the sense and substance of the Christian life…   It is an adventure in human growth;  it is an exercise in spiritual ripening.

As noted in the “ball rolling” post, I couldn’t have put it better myself.  Thus in one sense the Church Year does begin with Advent.  On the other hand, you could say that while “technically the liturgical year begins” with Advent, it’s the Annunciation that gets the ball rolling

And speaking of “getting the ball rolling.”  Who knows:  My upcoming adventure in Jerusalem will result in some personal “human growth.”  At the very least it should be:

“An exercise in spiritual ripening…

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St. James the Greater, dressed and accoutred as the quintessential Pilgrim…’

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

I cited Clark’s book in On Moses and Paul “dumbing it down:”

Which is another way of saying that all the people who wrote the Bible had to keep in mind the human limitations of their audience.  They were trying to put incomprehensible things into plain and simple language that even the most obtuse dolt could understand.  Or to paraphrase Sir Kenneth Clark, the people who wrote the Bible had to have the intellectual power to make God comprehensible.

The Kenneth Clark paraphrase is from the hardcover book version of Clark’s Civilisation (TV series). On pages 84-85 of the book, Clark compared the poet Dante with the painter Giotto.  Then on page 85, Clark noted the differences between the two men, beginning with the fact that “their imaginations moved on very different planes.”  But in the film version – and only in the film or TV version – Clark said Dante had  “that heroic contempt for baseness that was to come again in Michelangelo.   Above all, that vision of a heavenly order and the intellectual power to make it comprehensible.”  Which is the phrase that drew my attention…  See also Wikipedia, for more on the TV series.

Clark’s writing about early pilgrimages – especially to Jerusalem – are at pages 40-42 of the book.

Re:  The medieval mind.  The link is to The Medieval Mind: A Meditation:

The latter [people in the Middle Ages] were drenched in mysticism, whereas the contemporary world has been shaped by rationalism so that mystical concepts and experiences have been stripped away except among a small number of people steeped in the religious thought of our Western ancestors…  [Also:]  It can be argued that the decline of pilgrimages is a loss to Christian spiritual life in an age of unbelief and immorality when people have a profound need for spiritual examples.

Re:  Saint Foy, put to death for refusing to worship idols, then “turned into one herself.”  (The “idol” is shown at left.)  Clark wrote that she was “obstinate in the face of reasonable persuasion – a Christian Antigone” – and so was martyred.  But then her relics began to work miracles,” including the restoration of sight to a man who eyes had been gouged out “by a jealous priest.”  As to the little girl whose “relics” were turned into an idol – even though she’d been put to death for refusing to worship idols – “that’s the medieval mind.  They care passionately about the truth, but their sense of evidence was different than ours.” 

Also, the link in the text is to St. Foy’s Golden Reliquary – Conques, France – Atlas Obscura, about the “huge golden reliquary of a testicle smashing saint.”  The article added that “Pilgrims pray to saints for holy intercession in all kinds of problems, but they should be very careful what they ask for when approaching St. Foy, who seems to have a wicked sense of humor.”  That is, “St. Foy developed her reputation for… unusual cures. [Ellipses in the original.]  Notably, when a knight came to her seeking a cure for a herniated scrotum, she, via vision, helpfully suggested that he find a blacksmith willing to smash it with a white-hot hammer.”  See the article for the “rest of the story…” 

Also, re “idol.”  See Idolatry – Wikipedia:  “ldolatry literally means the worship of an ‘idol,’ also known as a worship cult image, in the form of a physical image, such as a statue.  In Abrahamic religions, namely Christianity, Islam and Judaism, idolatry connotes the worship of something or someone other than God as if it were God.”  Note the subtle difference to the medieval mind, asking the “saint” in question to intercede with God…

Re:  Hiking the Meseta part of the Camino de Santiago:  “Many people avoid the Meseta, catching the bus from Burgos to Leon,” while others – who aren’t so wussified – think that misses the whole point of hiking the Camino.

I borrowed the “further bulletins” cartoon from The Transfiguration of Jesus – 2016.

I borrowed the lower image from St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts, from 2016.  See also Wikipedia, with full caption, “Saint James the Elder by Rembrandt[.]  He is depicted clothed as a pilgrim;  note the scallop shell on his shoulder and his staff and pilgrim’s hat beside him.”  Also, the “sluts” post noted in part:  “Of course the two [pilgrimages] I went on this summer weren’t close to being like going to Jerusalem.  (See Back in the saddle again, again.)  But for next summer – more precisely, September 2017 – my brother and I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago…”  (Can you say foreshadowing?)

 

On my “mission from God…”

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Since 1989 or so, I too (along with the Blues Brothers) have been “on a mission from God.”

That is, back around 1989 I started trying to “help” my favorite team win.  The particular team was Florida State University football, and I started by trying to help them win a national championship.  I began with a weekly “ritual sacrifice” of exercise, especially pushing myself to earn more and more aerobic points(Mostly through running, or more like jog-walking.)

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-kIgeIQBgTsw/TpjvtkuO5-I/AAAAAAAABLQ/rejqM5r-X7E/s1600/MonksChoir.jpgThat didn’t work, so in 1992 I added the discipline of daily Bible reading.  (See What’s a DOR, which includes the image at right.)  Then in 1993, the Seminole football team won its first national title.  You make the connection.

Then too, for 14 straight years the Florida State football team went from success to success – with my “help.”  For 14 straight years they finished in the Top 4,* then won another national title in 1999.  (That was – in the words of one writer – “something no other team has come remotely close to accomplishing” and thus was “the greatest run in college football history.”)

Unfortunately, after that things started going downhill.

FSU football went into a bit of a slide, but then again so did I.  Then in 2013 they won another national championship, and along the way I also got my life back in order.

But once again things started going downhill for the Nole football team.  That is, since 2013 there have been, at best, “mixed results.”  And this past football season was especially painful.  In 2018, FSU went 5-and-7, and broke a streak of consecutive post-season bowl appearances.  That “anti-climax” marked their first losing season since 1976 (41 years), and that included the first time they didn’t make it to a bowl game in 36 years.

But the strange thing is, on a personal level I’ve done a lot better.  As a matter of fact, my life is going far better than I could have expected, at any time in the past.  For example, as recently as 2017 I thought I’d spend my last days here on earth still living in a dinky, rented one-bedroom apartment.  But against all odds I managed to get a mortgage – and now have a 4-bedroom home on an acre of woodland.  And in terms of exercise too I’ve done very well indeed.

Going back to the beginning, my mission from God – my “mystic quest*” – started back in Florida, in 1989.  Three times a week I ran outdoors, for an hour or more.  That often meant dodging the daily summer-afternoon thunderstorms, or waiting until 6:00 p.m. or so, for the heat index to get down below 100.

Then I moved from Florida to Georgia, and starting in 2013 added two hours kayaking a week.  And incidentally that year – 2013 – FSU won its third national championship.  I’ve also moved from outdoor running to indoor stair-stepping.  (An hour at a time two or three times a week.)  And near the end of this last (2018) season, I “graduated” to wearing a 25-pound weight vest, along with ten pounds of ankle weights, while doing my hour of stair-stepping.

Then -somewhere along the line – it struck me that at age 67, that was pretty dang impressive.  (Standing by itself, as a “signal accomplishment.”)  But “on-the-field results” for 2018 were exactly the opposite of what I’d hoped for, and come to expect.  Which came to remind me what Lawrence LeShan said of the ideal Zen archer or karate student:  “The real goal is to help you grow and develop as a total human being, not to become a better archer or karate expert.”

So I came to realize that maybe I shouldn’t get too upset because FSU had such lousy football season in 2018.  After all, the real goal in my “mission from God” was to grow and develop as a total human being, not necessarily to have FSU win all the time.

There’s also the fact that the original Children of Israel – whose own quest I tried to mimic – had some pretty lousy seasons too.  They did have the Exodus, along with King David and Solomon, but also years of slavery, exile, and foreign oppression, followed by the Great Diaspora.

On the other hand, there have been plenty of good and fruitful collateral consequences, and not just for me.  Many of my other favorite teams – other than FSU football – have done quite well.  Most recently, my adopted Atlanta United soccer team won the MLS Cup in its second season.  The FSU Women’s soccer won the 2018 National Championship last December, and the Women’s softball team won its first National Championship last June.  Aside from that, my Tampa Bay Bucs won Super Bowl XXXVII, to top off the 2002 season, and my Tampa Bay Lightning won the 2004 Stanley Cup.  So maybe I shouldn’t complain too much…

Which brings up this whole matter of sport-superstitions, and “what kind of a moron would really think what he does matters to the outcome of a particular game?”  See for example, “Super”stitions: Fans engage in odd rituals.  But the truth of the matter is that such ‘”weird rituals” go back to the time of Moses, and the Battle of Rephidim.

See for another example, Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  You can see the full story at Exodus 17, on the battle that happened some 3,500 years ago.  There, like at Pearl Harbor, the dreaded Amalekites launched a sneak attack on the Children of Israel as they emerged from “the Exodus, at Rephidim near Mount Sinai.”   Verses 8 to 16 – of Exodus 17 – tell of Israel pulling off  an “upset of the season.”  In essence they beat a hated arch-rival, thanks to Moses:

Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed; and whenever he lowered his hand, Am′alek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat upon it, and Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side; so his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

As I’ve noted elsewhere:  “That sounds a lot like a modern-day football fan, watching his favorite team on TV.”  Sometimes he moves around the room, sometimes he stands, sometimes he sits.  Other times he’ll mute the sound on the TV, sometimes he’ll tell his wife to leave the room – because she may be jinxing his team – but he’s “always trying to ‘help his team win.’”

Or by offering a weekly “ritual sacrifice” of exercise – with lots of aerobics – along with a good dose of daily Bible reading.  So just in case you think I’m weird for trying to help my team win – by and through such highly profitable intense exercise and Bible reading – I can only say:

“Hey pal, tell that to Moses!”

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Moses at Rephidim:  “If I let my arms down, the other team will win!

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The upper image is courtesy of Blues Brothers Mission From God – Image Results.  On this topic see also “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, and Moses at Rephidim: “What if?”  A side note:  The “unintended consequences” post also pointed out that – with my help, metaphorically or otherwise – the FSU basketball team got to the Elite 8 in 2018, and FSU’s Mike Martin became the winningest coach in college baseball history.  See FSU Basketball is true Cinderella of 2018 NCAA Tournament, and Mike Martin is the winningest coach in college baseball.

Re:  Aerobic points.  See also Aerobic exercise – Wikipedia.

Re:  “14 straight years.”  See Top College Football Dynasties of the AP Poll Era:  “Florida State’s 14 year streak of top 4 finishes in the AP poll 1987-2000 is … something no other team has come remotely close to accomplishing.  So I’m calling this the greatest run in college football history.”  (They “dropped to #5 in the fixed poll for 1994,” but ranked #4 in the AP poll.) 

Re:  FSU’s bowl streak.  See Florida State’s Incredible 36-Year Bowl Streak, for more positive spin: “It might be lame, but Dr. Seuss once said, ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’”

A lot has happened for the Seminoles since 1981, such as three National Championships, 15 conference titles, three Heisman Trophy winners and 35 consensus All-Americans.  Now that the all-time streak has ended, everyone will take shots at FSU, but people should really just appreciate such an impressive feat.  [So] this isn’t the time to be embarrassed as a streak ends.  It is time to celebrate that it happened, and no other program has ever made more consecutive bowl games in FBS football history.  It does suck it was ended by a rival, but the longest bowl streak they [the Florida Gators] ever had was 22 consecutive.

Re:  “Signal accomplishment.”  See How To Answer The Interview Question “What Is Your Greatest Accomplishment, and/or What Are James Monroe’s Accomplishments? | Reference.com:  “Monroe’s signal accomplishment was the formation of the Monroe Doctrine.”

Re:  The definition of mystic quest.  In one “worldly” sense it refers to Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, “a role-playing video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System,” first released in North America in 1992 and marketed as a “simplified role-playing game…  In the game, the player controls a youth named Benjamin in his quest to save the world.” (Wikipedia.)  My mystic quest – or “mission from God” – was not nearly so grand.  It did however pay great dividends in terms of personal health, especially cardio-vascular, and spiritual development.  (For example, it led me to create my two blogs, including this one, “Daily Office Reading Scribe.”)  As to the more spiritual definition of “mystic quest,” see Mystic | Definition of Mystic by Merriam-Webster (used in a sentence, “She had a mystic vision while praying”);  Mysticism – WikipediaQuest | Define Quest at Dictionary.com (“a search or pursuit made in order to find or obtain something” or “an adventurous expedition undertaken by a knight or knights to secure or achieve something”); and also Quest definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary:  “A quest is a long and difficult search for something.”

 The “only mile” image is courtesy of Running Outdoors The Rain – Image Results I might add that while I no longer run in the rain, I do end up kayaking in the rain oftener than I’d like…

Re:  My hour-long stair-stepping with a 25-pound weight vest and ten pounds of ankle weights.  According to my calculations, that now – at age 67 – helps me earn 155 aerobic points per week, whereas Dr. Kenneth H. Coopers ”’minimum aerobic fitness’ level is 36 points a week.”  See KEEPING FIT; Just How Far, And How Fast, For FitnessSee also Dr. Cooper’s 1977 book, The Aerobics Way, 1978 Bantam Books edition, at page 186, on earning additional points for wearing ankle weights and a 35-pound pack.  (Chapter 9, “The Point Charts.”)  Also see page 245 on “stair climbing,” in the Appendix under “The Point System.”  All of which formed the basis of my calculations…

Re:  Lawrence LeShan on the ideal Zen archer, “to help you grow and develop as a total human being.”  See his How to Meditate: A Guide to Self-Discovery, Bantam Edition, 1975, at page 38.

Re:  “Collateral consequences.”  Strictly speaking, such consequences are “additional civil state penalties, mandated by statute, that attach to criminal convictions.  They are not part of the direct consequences of criminal conviction, such as prison, fines, or probation.  They are the further civil actions by the state that are triggered as a consequence of the conviction.”  See WikipediaBut defined more liberally or spiritually, they can refer to additional – but indirectly intended – consequences of a mystic quest or “mission from God.”  Thus they’re distinct from Unintended consequences: “outcomes that are not the ones foreseen and intended by a purposeful action.”  As Wikipedia said, these can come in three forms, including an “unexpected benefit” (also referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall); an “unexpected drawback”  (unexpected detriment occurring in addition to the desired effect); or a “perverse result.”  See also “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, about the FSU women’s softball team winning their national title…

The “only weird” image is courtesy of Bud Light It’s Only Weird – Image Results.

The lower image is courtesy of Rephidim – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “Moses holding up his arms during the Battle of Rephidim, assisted by Hur and Aaron, in John Everett MillaisVictory O Lord! (1871).”  As borrowed from a post on my companion blog, Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”  (That companion blog is The Georgia Wasp | A blog of life-reviews by an old guy who still gets a kick out of lifeThe post includes an extensive analysis of such sport-superstitions:

The thing is, this business of “helping your team win” has been around a long, long time.  (Longer even than “Touchdown Jesus,” seen at left, visible from Notre Dame stadium…)  In fact, it may all have started with Moses, back at the battle of Rephidim, noted above.

See also “Super”stitions: Fans engage in odd rituals, and this “bottom line” from the blog-post: “Athletes know it, fans know it, and even Bud Light knows it.  Superstitions are as big a part of the game as anything.  They were there when your parents and/or grandparents first started watching, and they’ll be here long after we’re gone.”  Unfortunately, that last link is “now defunct.”

On a better way to spread the Gospel…

“I Want to Be like Mike” – An idea that just may be the key to spreading the Gospel better…

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NOVA: The Bible's Buried SecretsThe other night I watched The Bible’s Buried Secrets.  That was the NOVA program that aired on PBS in 2008, and explored the historicity of the Bible.  In other words, it explored whether the Bible was “factually accurate,” or history as we understand it.  According to Wikipedia:

The producers surveyed the evidence and [took] positions that are mainstream among archaeologists and historians, although they continue to raise objections among both Christians who believe in the bible as either literal or historical truth and minimalists who assert that the Bible has no historical validation.

Which I thought missed the whole point.

That is, among other findings the program said there was “no archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  That finding led the conservative American Family Association – promoting “fundamentalist Christian values” – to issue an “online petition urging Congress to cut off federal funding for PBS.”  The petition said that “PBS is knowingly choosing to insult and attack Christianity by airing a program that declares the Bible ‘isn’t true and a bunch of stories that never happened.’”

Which I thought – again – misses the whole point of the Christian faith.

My theory is that you can’t “prove” the Bible-faith by scientific or courtroom evidence.  You prove the validity of that faith by your own experience walking with and/or working with God.  Like the man with the legion (demons), as told in Mark 5 (18-20):

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.   Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you…”   So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him.  And all the people were amazed.

In other words, the demon-possessed man could care less if archaeologists found Noah’s Ark in Turkey, or whether there was “archaeological evidence to corroborate the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood and Abraham.”  He cared about what Jesus did for him.  Or as it says in Psalm 66:16:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God, and I will tell you what he has done for me.”

Which is – to me – the far better way of spreading the Good News of Jesus

Getting back to the Gerasene demoniac, the man with “legion” told people in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him “and all the people were amazed.”  And – no doubt – many of them tried out this “new faith” for themselves.  Or as applied today – when few of us seem so possessed – we start by reading the Bible and applying it to our lives, then “proceed on:”

[Like the Bible, e]very martial art – judo, kendo, aikido, etc. – has its own forms, actions, procedure.  Beginners must learn the kata and assimilate and use them.  Later, they begin to create out of them, in the way specific to each art.

Jesus Christ, Public Defender: and Other Meditations on the Bible, For Baby-boomers, “Nones” and Other Seekers by [Ford, James B.]That’s a thought from my e-book “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Near the end of Chapter 8, I wrote about the early years, when I’d just started daily Bible readings and applying them to my own life.  (And in particular to my own “obsession,” college football.)

“In the process, something seemed to happen that may be like what happens to a student of an eastern martial art.”  I also noted that maybe the Bible student – like a good karate student – first struggles to learn the basics, and then – after he learns the fundamentals – he can start to use them in his daily life:

Finally, after the student has been at it long enough, he can begin to “create” out of those Bible readings, and in the process create something new out of something very old, or as the Bible says, “sing to the Lord a new song.”  As time passes the student can “create” something new, giving a new meaning to the “old” Bible message…

The result could well be a “new song to the Lord,” as illustrated and updated in the student’s own life.  And incidentally, that theme of singing a new song to the Lord – and not just another stale, old “conservative” or literalist rehash – is repeated again and again in the Bible.  Like in Isaiah 42:10, and Psalm 96:1, Psalm 98:1, and Psalm 144:9.

So what’s all this about a “better way to spread the Gospel?”  We can start with one basic assumption and one big question, two points common to all the world’s religions.

The basic assumption is:  “You’ve been given a gift.”  The big question is:  “What are you going to do with it?”  You can say you’ve been given the gift of “salvation through Christ,” which basically means that you’ve gotten the gift of a “new”  bridge to God.  Or for that matter you can say you’ve been “gifted” the road to a more spiritual life, through Islam, Buddhism or one of many other spiritual paths.  (Though I believe all those others will eventually “lead you to Christ…”)

Or you can just say that you’ve been given the gift of life, by whoever or whatever gave that gift to you.  (Possibly even some generic Higher Power.)

Luther's roseBut the big question remains:  What are you going to do with that gift?  Or in Christian terms, “How are you going to help spread the Gospel?”  (The Good News or “the message of salvation, justification [illustrated by Luther’s rose, at right], and sanctification.”)  That’s the question raised by the Great Commission, as detailed notably in Matthew 28:16–20:

 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.

Of course one method – so favored by conservatives – is to browbeat people, telling them that they’re going to hell if they don’t listen to you.  Or you can become a parrot, spouting out random Bible verses, generally full of hell and damnation, fire and brimstone.

Or you can be “like Mike.”  You can be the kind of person other people want to emulate.  You can lead the kind of life that makes people look at what you’ve accomplished, and say, “That’s what I want!  I want what he’s got!”  Or done, or accomplished.  In other words, you – “like Mike” – could be a walking advertisement for the kind of Bible faith that potential converts want to imitate.  (See 1st Corinthians 11:1, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”)

Like – for example – my being 67 years old and keeping fit by stair-stepping an hour at a time, wearing a 25-pound weight vest and 10 pounds of ankle weights.  Or having a series of “adventures in old age,” like Mike.  Or like successfully hiking the Chilkoot Trail (“meanest 33 miles in history”), or canoeing 440 miles down the Yukon river (in 12 days), or canoeing 12 miles out into the Gulf of Mexico, primitive camping for eight days on offshore islands (and an occasional salt marsh), or hiking and biking 450 miles on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.

As detailed in the notes, and which incidentally will be the focus of my next blog post…

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And no, at 67 “I’m not too old to have some adventure in the time I have left…”

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The upper image is courtesy of I Want To Be Like Mike – Image Results.

Re:  “Be like Mike.”  See Be Like Mike – Wikipedia, about the “Gatorade commercial featuring American professional basketball player Michael Jordan that originally aired in 1992.”   See also “I Want to Be like Mike” – Josh.org:  “A MAJOR SPORTS-drink company once ran an ad campaign encouraging people to ‘be like Mike,’ as in NBA basketball legend Michael Jordan. The phrase, ‘I want to be like Mike’ was everywhere.  Kids said it.  Adults sang it.”

The “buried secrets” image is courtesy of Amazon.com: NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets.

Re:  The Bible’s “historicity.”  See Asimov’s Guide to the Bible: Two Volumes in One, which noted, “The Bible is not a history book in modern sense, of course, since its writers lacked the benefit of modern archaeological techniques, did not have our concept of dating and documentation, and had different standards of what was and was not significant in history.”  (Avenel Books edition, 1981, page 7.)  Of course Asimov is “probably going to hell too…”  (Kidding!  See Deuteronomy 19:16-19.)

Re:  “Insult and attack Christianity.”  I’d respond that the PBS Nova program didn’t insult my Christianity.  Or as I’ve said before: “It was never ‘contrary to Scripture’ that the earth revolved around the sun.  It was only contrary to a narrow-minded, pigheaded, too-literal reading of Scripture.”  See “There’s no such thing as a ‘conservative Christian.”

Re: “Proceed on.”  The link is to “We proceeded on” : Lewis & Clark – oi – Oxford Index Home.  It spoke of a concluding chapter in a book about the Lewis and Clark Expedition:  “This concluding chapter presents the perspective of a documentary filmmaker who traveled the entire length of the Lewis and Clark trail.  It looks at the inspiration he derived from the unofficial motto of the expedition—’We proceeded on.’—and observes that the phrase is frequently used in the Journals.” 

Re:  “Come and listen, all you who fear God…”  Note that in the Revised Standard Version of the Psalter in the Book of Common Prayer, the verse is 66:14.

Re:  “Jesus Christ, Public Defender.”  Available at Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks.  Just type in the title and look for the 4th Edition, with Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch on the cover.

Re:  Sing a new song to the Lord.”  See On singing a NEW song to God.

Also re: the Nova program The Bible’s Buried SecretsSee Wikipedia, which noted what the Biblical Archaeology Review wrote: “The producers have done a magnificent job summarizing over a century of biblical archaeology and biblical scholarship in two hours.  The film strikes a balance between the old-fashioned biblical archaeology approach, which tried to prove the Bible’s historicity, and the extreme skepticism of some minimalists, for whom the Bible contains little factual history.”  Rabbi Wesley Gardenswartz wrote: “Conservative Judaism is fully accepting of the type of scholarship featured in this documentary.”  And Rev. Kenneth Himes, OFM Professor, wrote:  For some, the ideas presented may seem novel or surprising, but this is material that is being discussed in the theology courses found at many Catholic universities.”  

See also Historicity of the Bible – Wikipedia.  But again, my theory is that to focus on the Bible’s “historicity” is to miss the point of the faith entirely.  The question is:  Having accepted God and/or Christ, what now do you do with your life?  How will you live out the life you’ve been given?  What will you accomplish with that life?  How are you going to make this world a better place?

Re:  “Walking advertisement.”  The cite-link is to Human billboard – Wikipedia.

Re:  Some of my adventures in old age.  See for example – from my companion blog – Remembering the “Chilkoot &^%$# Trail!”  Also, Canoeing 12 miles off the coast of Mississippi.  (From 7/19/17.)  That cited On canoeing 12 miles offshore, from May 2015As to the Yukon River trip, see “Naked lady on the Yukon.”  As to hiking in Spain, see “Hola! Buen Camino!” – Revisited, and “Buen Camino!” – The Good Parts.  Another “incidentally:”  Future pilgrimage-trips include two weeks in Israel, and another hike, this time on the “Camino Portugues.”  Also, I’ve written about some overnight adventures into the Okefenokee Swamp in several posts:  Operation Pogo – “Into the Okefenokee” (11/7/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part II (11/15/15), “Into the Okefenokee” – Part III (11/24/15), “There he goes again…” (5/30/16), and “There he goes again” – Revisited (5/31/17).

And of course, those “adventures in old age” necessarily include writing this thought-provoking blog.  

The lower image is courtesy of happyotter666.blogspot.com.  See also Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom – Wikipedia, which provided the following “cornered” quote, which was in turn part of a blog-comment about the second day of my “adventurous” hike on the Chilkoot Trail:

Okay, it wasn’t quite as bad – crossing that “swinging bridge” the first day on the Chilkoot Trail – as it was for Indiana Jones in the photo above.  (For example, we hadn’t been “cornered by Mola Ram and his henchmen on a rope bridge high above a crocodile-infested river.”)  But that second day on the Trail was pretty &^%$ bad

See specifically On the Chilkoot &^%$# Trail! – Part 2.

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For further review you may wish to consult the following, some or most of which I’ve read for “Deep Background:”  What the Gospels Meant, by Garry WillsHow to Spread the Word of God: 7 Steps (with PicturesWhat is Christian mysticism? – GotQuestions.orgWhat is Christian mysticism? – fRimMinMysticism – Wikipedia; and/or Christian mysticism – Wikipedia.

A review of Ric Burns’ “Pilgrims” DVD…

“The actor Roger Rees renders [William] Bradford beautifully,” in Ric Burns’  “The Pilgrims…”

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To preview what’s coming up in the Church Calendar for 2019 –  including a continuation of the Season of Epiphany – see Happy Epiphany – 2018.  Among the Feast Days coming up are the Confession of St Peter, Apostle, on January 18;  the Conversion of St Paul, Apostle, on January 25; and the Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, on February 2.

Crossofashes.jpgThat all leads to the Last Sunday after the Epiphany, March 3, and that 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 it falls on March 6.

Meaning Easter Sunday will be pretty late this year, on April 21.

“In the meantime,” again, I offer this review of a DVD I just finished watching:  American Experience: The Pilgrims, a documentary film by Ric Burns.  (Available at Amazon.com.) 

I must say that – overall – I found the tone pretty depressing.  I wrote before – in Thanksgiving 2015 for example – that of the 102 Pilgrims who landed in November 1620 at Plymouth Rock, less than half survived the first year.  (To November 1621.)  And of the 18 adult women, only four survived that first winter in the hoped-for “New World.”   (Illustrated at left.)

I just hadn’t appreciated the extent of that loss on an emotional level.  Another way of saying that – just as at Jamestown, started in 1607 – there was a whole lot of human suffering:

The major similarity between the first Jamestown settlers and the first Plymouth settlers was great human suffering…  November was too late to plant crops.  Many settlers died of scurvy and malnutrition during that horrible first winter.  Of the 102 original Mayflower passengers, only 44 survived.  Again like in Jamestown, the kindness of the local Native Americans saved them from a frosty death.

In Thanksgiving – 2016, I wrote that the “men and women who first settled America paid a high price, so that we could enjoy the privilege of stuffing ourselves into a state of stupor.”  But the Ric Burns film brought that suffering home in a way I hadn’t fully appreciated before.

And by the way, the full caption for the picture at the top of the page reads, “The actor Roger Rees renders Bradford beautifully;  it was among his last performances before his death in July,” 2015.  Which could be both prescient and ironic.  That is, while Rees died at 71 – when life expectancy today is about 78 – William Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that.

There’s more about that at the end of this post…

But what I found most fascinating was how Bradford’s journal, Of Plymouth Plantation, proved the truth of the old adage, “Everything perishes, save the written word.*”  For starters, here’s what Wikipedia said about Plymouth Colony in general:

Despite the colony’s relatively short existence, Plymouth holds a special role in American history…  The events surrounding the founding and history of Plymouth Colony have had a lasting effect on the art, traditions, mythology, and politics of the United States of America, despite its short history of fewer than 72 years.

And what gave “Plymouth” such a special place in American history?   Bradford’s journal,  Of Plymouth Plantation.  (Which proves again, “Everything perishes, save the written word.”)  And which brings up another thing that I hadn’t realized:  That the book was almost lost to history.

That is, the original manuscript was left in the tower of the Old South Meeting House in Boston during the American Revolution.  But after British troops occupied Boston, it disappeared “for the next century.”  The missing manuscript was finally re-discovered, “in the Bishop of London‘s library at Fulham Palace,” and printed again in 1856.  It was only after much finagling – including a verdict ultimately rendered by the Consistorial and Episcopal Court of London – that the manuscript was brought back to the U.S. and given to Massachusetts in 1897.

That’s one of several points noted by the New York Times’ In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking (Including the Plymouth “Signing of the Mayflower Compact.”)

Mr. Burns’s most inspired touch is to end not in the 1600s, but two centuries later, by following what happened to Bradford’s journal.  It disappeared during the Revolutionary War, then was rediscovered in the mid-1800s…  The Mayflower passengers suffered terrible hardships, and from the Indians’ point of view their arrival was ultimately a dark day.  But not on Thanksgiving.  “There’s been a tremendous amount of memory produced around the Pilgrims, but there’s also been a lot of forgetting,” the literary critic Kathleen Donegan notes, adding later: “We don’t think about the loss.  We think about the abundance.”

Or consider this, from Who Were the Pilgrims Who Celebrated the First Thanksgiving.  “The first winter, people died from dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scurvy, and exposure, at rates as high as two or three per day.  ‘It pleased God to visit us then with death daily,’ Bradford wrote.”

But the Pilgrims were “inventive enough” to conceal their losses from the Indians:  “inventive enough, as Donegan notes, to prop up sick men against trees outside the settlement, with muskets beside them, as decoys to look like sentinels to the Indians.”

The point is this:  Our “Forefathers” – and Foremothers as well – suffered greatly to come to America, and usually much more than we appreciate.  More than that, from the beginning they were “aliens in a strange land.”  Which brings up Deuteronomy 10:19, where God said to the Children of Israel:  “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.”  And that’s a point worth remembering these days…

But let’s close with a note of hope and cheer, at least for me.  That is, rumor has it that William Bradford was one of my long-ago ancestors.  If that’s true, I hope I inherited his longevity gene.

That earlier “Bradford” lived to a ripe old age of 67.  That was at a time when life expectancy for that time and place was about half that long.  See for example, life expectancy in America in the years 1750-1800.  That is, the life expectancy a century after Bradford’s time – he died in 1657 – was 36 years.  So if that “1.86 factor” applied to me today – with a  male U.S. life expectancy of 76 years – I should live to be 141.  (Giving me another 74 years.) 

And who knows, I might end my years with the old-age benefits of 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…

(In the biblical sense.)   On the other hand, King David didn’t have all the “better living through chemistry” advantages we have today.  And that will no doubt increase by, say, 2080?

Something to look forward to…

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The upper image is courtesy of Review (NYT): In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking.

Re:  “Everything perishes save the written word.”  The quote is from Techniques of Fiction Writing: Measure and Madness, by Leon Surmelian.  Surmelian cited Plato as saying the poet – including but not limited to the writer of fiction, and maybe of such essays as these – creates “not by science or technique, not by any conscious artistry, but by inspiration or influence of some non-rational, supernatural influence.”  Which could apply to the writers of the Bible, which Surmelian implied by saying a true writer “is the medium of some higher spirit that gets into him.  He is literally inspired.”

But – Surmelian continued – the writer needs more than mere inspiration, by and through “what mysterious power dwells within him.”  (The “madness” in the book title.)  He needs “measure:”

Through measure a story is given the structure and style that snatch it from the chaos of reality and fix it in the memory of man.  We remember through measure.  We move from the unrealized to the realized through measure.  Through measure writing resists the ravages of time.  Everything perishes save the written word, says an old eastern proverb.

From the 1969 Anchor Books paperback edition, at pages 242-44, emphasis added.

The image to the right of the paragraph ending, “Bradford lived to the ripe old age of 67, when life expectancy was about half that,” shows the “Coat of Arms of William Bradford.”

Also from (New York Times) Review: In ‘The Pilgrims,’ Ric Burns Looks at Mythmaking:

The Pilgrims and their fellow travelers weren’t terrorists, of course (despite an instance of putting the severed head of a perceived enemy on a pole), but they and those who followed certainly did effect a cultural conquest.  Some versions of their story play that down, partly because a plague resulting from earlier contact with Westerners brought widespread death to coastal Indians in the Northeast just before the Mayflower arrived. God, it seemed to some, killed off the Indians to make way for the whites, a view this program corrects.

 Here’s more from Who Were the Pilgrims Who Celebrated the First Thanksgiving:

It draws on the unique, nearly lost history, Of Plymouth Plantation, written by William Bradford, the new colony’s governor for more than 30 years, whom the late actor Roger Rees portrays from a script derived from Bradford’s book.

Right from the start, the death rate was awful. Mortality had been enormous at the Jamestown colony, where by 1620 nearly 8,000 people had arrived, although the settlement was struggling to keep its population above a thousand. Bradford’s history recalled the Pilgrims’ anticipation of “a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wild beasts and wild men.” Ferrying in supplies from the ship meant wading through ice-cold water, at one point with sleet glazing their bodies with ice. The first winter, people died from dysentery, pneumonia, tuberculosis, scurvy, and exposure, at rates as high as two or three per day. “It pleased God to visit us then with death daily,” Bradford wrote…

See also PBS Documentary “The Pilgrims”: A Review.

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).