Category Archives: Reviews

On my “pain in the back…”


“Why – indeed – does my back hurt so much?”  See my answer below…

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Now about that “pain in the back.”  Unfortunately,  I’m not speaking metaphorically.

mardi grasI actually didthrow out my back,” back on Thursday, March 2.  That was only three days after I did my last post, The “Overlooked Apostle,” Ruth and Mardi Gras.  (Which featured the image at left, of revelers in New Orleans “showing skin for beads;” of which I am speaking metaphorically.)  And the reason that that was the last post I did is because – ever since then – I’ve been unable to sit at my “laptop” desk at home for more than a few minutes at a time.

As noted in September 2016,* for next September – 2017 – “my brother and I plan to hike the Camino de Santiago, mostly in Spain.”  As part of my training for that upcoming event, I tried a type of “forced march.”  (Also known as a “loaded march.”)  Briefly, a forced march involves alternating periods of walking and running – or jogging for older folk – but with increased resistance provided by a heavy pack.

In my case, on the Camino itself I hope to maintain a pace of 20 minutes per mile, with about 20 pounds of pack weight.  So for training purposes, I started experimenting with cycles of one minute – 85 steps – of jogging, followed by a number of minutes walking.

Product DetailsAll the while wearing a 22-pound weight vest.  (Like that at right.)

I started out with one minute of jogging followed by six minutes of walking.  But I also wanted to be time-efficient, so I kept increasing the pace, by decreasing the number of walking minutes.  Finally, on March 2, I tried a four-minute cycle:  One minute of jogging and three minutes of walking.  To make a long story short, I overextended.

The problem – I figured out later – was that the weight vest was a bit too loose, so that my back got a constant pounding.  (Much in the nature of a series of kidney punches, as I also figured out later.)  There were warning signs, including the fact that it hurt to breathe during those minutes I was jogging.  Unfortunately, I succumbed to the temptation to “Walk it offNancy!

Bad move.

Which is another way of saying that I’ve been paying for it ever since.

Which is also a problem, because Lent started back on March 1, and Lent is a key time in the church calendar and for this blog.  (For reasons including that it leads to the climax of Easter.)  So for your consideration – and as I type these words through my pain – I offer up last year’s On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016.  Also, from 2015, Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:

According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan.  Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See also Wikipedia, which noted that Lent is “devoted to ‘prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.'”  And if you’re interested in even more history on Ash Wednesday see The History and Meaning of Ash Wednesday.

That site noted the “pouring of ashes on one’s body” as an “outer manifestation of inner repentance” is an ancient practice.  The earliest mention seems to have come at the end of the Book of Job, “older than any other book of the Bible.”  In Job 42:6, after he is rebuked by God, Job says, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”

The text set is in a phallic column extending from Hartnett's crotch.And incidentally, there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.  Sundays in Lent are essentially “days off,” when you can still enjoy whatever it is that you’ve given up for Lent.  (A fact overlooked by the writer/producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights – as shown at left – a “2002 romantic comedy film” which showed the main character “during a period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  As noted, the main character could have “taken Sundays off.”)

But we digress.

One important point is that for many people, the whole purpose of the Season of Lent is to “draw themselves near to God.”  For example, My Lenten meditation for last year involved trying to figure out “just when, where and how Moses came to write the first five books of the Bible. (The Torah.)”  And one thing I figured out from that Lenten meditation was that in writing the first five books of the Bible, Moses had to really dumb it down:

Moses was addressing an audience of the largely “unwashed.”  That is, illiterate men and women who had been trained since birth to be “mindless, docile slaves…”  Suppose Moses had mentioned dinosaurs in his writings.  Or how “we” revolve around that “big bright thing in the sky.”  The result would have been similar to what nearly happened [in] Exodus 17:4, “Moses cried out to the LORD, ‘What should I do with these people?  They are ready to stone me!’”  [For the full story see Exodus 17:1-7.]

See also On Moses getting stoned, which included the image below.  That post included this observation:  That in plain words, “Moses was forced by circumstance ‘to use language and concepts that his ‘relatively-pea-brained contemporary audience’ could understand.’”

Meanwhile I have my own thorn in the flesh, as part of this year’s Lenten discipline…

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Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb

One time when Moses almost got stoned to death…

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The upper image is courtesy of  Although the article concerned pediatric back pain – such pain suffered by “infants, children, and adolescents” – it did note that the “incidence of back pain increases with age.”  Also re:  “Threw out my back.”  See also Throw Out Your Back? 8 Tips to Help You Recover, which includes steps I wished I’d taken three weeks ago. 

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement supported by a reference detailed further in this “notes” section.  Thus as to “As noted in September 2016,” the reference (*) is to the post “Starting back with a bang.”  It told of the “almost six weeks” – last summer – that my brother and I spent “hiking the Chilkoot Trail – ‘meanest 33 miles in history‘ – and canoeing 440 miles on the ‘mighty Yukon River.’”  I ended that post by noting I would “talk more about that [projected journey] – and pilgrimages in general – in St. James, Steinbeck, and sluts.”

The weight-vest image is courtesy of weighted vest.

Re:  “Forced march.”  See Loaded march – Wikipedia, which noted that in the U.S. Army, a forced march for training purposes means covering 12 miles in three hours, while carrying 70 pounds including pack.  (Meaning four miles per hour, whereas I was considering an average of three miles per hour on the Camino, carrying no more than 20 pounds, or 10% of my body weight.)  Also, in the French Foreign Legion, a forced march meant covering five miles in 40 minutes, while carrying a 26-pound pack.  After describing other, longer types, Wikipedia noted:

Troublemakers are made to place extra rocks in their backpacks for the duration of the marches.  Further in the training of a “Caporal” there is a 100 km march which must be completed in 24 hours.

Re:  “Nanc[y].”  See also Tough it out – Idioms by The Free Dictionary.

The lower image is courtesy of Stoning of Moses, Joshua and Caleb | Byzantine | The Metroplitan Museum of Art.  (It’s a mosaic from the 5th century.)  See also Stoning – Wikipedia, which includes another painting of the incident. The caption to that painting, under Punishment of the Rebels:  “The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron (1480–1482), by Sandro Botticelli, Sistine Chapel, Rome.”  See also Heresy – Wikipedia.

The “stoning” article said this of the “Korah” painting:

The painting … tells of a rebellion by the Hebrews against Moses and Aaron.  On the right the rebels attempt to stone Moses after becoming disenchanted by their trials on their emigration from Egypt.  Joshua has placed himself between the rebels and Moses, protecting him from the stoning

Which raises anew the question:  “What would those backward, ignorant, sons-of-the-desert have done to Moses if he’d told them the truth about that ‘big bright round thing in the sky?’”

“Same time, last year…”

A scene from the 1978 film “Same Time, Next Year,” which suggested the title of this blogpost

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SameTimeNextYearPoster.jpgI haven’t had much time to post anything lately, as explained below.

So today – Thursday, December 29 – I present “Same time, last year.”

That’s  an allusion to “Same Time, Next Year,” the 1978 American romantic comedy-drama film starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. (And featuring the theatrical release poster at left.)

 But getting back to:  “It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything.”

In fact it’s been since December 6, when I posted On the REAL “Jolly Ol’ Saint Nick.”  But I have a good excuse:  I had to go to a funeral.

My aunt died on December 7.  She was a mere 80 years old, and so still fairly young by today’s standards.  (Especially as I myself get closer to that age.)  But she had a host of health problems, and so it wasn’t really surprising to get a text from my sister-in-law on December 3.  It said Joan was in the ICU, “critical but stable.”  But unfortunately she went downhill from there.  So I had to “attend another stinkin’ funeral!”  (As we say in our family, having gone through too many lately.)

Then – less than a week after returning home from the funeral – my “mission” was to turn around and head back north again, this time to Greater Cincinnati and Cleveland.  (A trip that was basically a reprise of the one taken in December 2014, detailed in “Another brick in the wall” and featuring an image of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, as seen in the notes…)

Which is why the title of this post is “Same time last year…”

Last year at this time I posted Develop your talents with Bible study, which “continues the theme of Bible study to open your mind and develop your talents.”  (And which included the image at right, about certain “moral[s] of the story” in the manner of Aesop and his morality tales.)

It included a pretty good summary of the main theme of this blog:  To help you – and me – get a better feel for communicating with the Force that Created the Universe.

It also included a reference to Matthew 25:14-30, about the Parable of the talents.

That parable was about three servants, each of whom were given some “talents.”  Taken literally, a talent was worth 50 or 60 shekels, and “so was a good chunk of change.”  But viewed metaphorically, it can also refer to a “special often athletic, creative, or artistic aptitude.”  Which is something we all have, to one degree or another.

So anyway, one servant got ten talents, and basically doubled his master’s investment.  The same thing happened with the servant given five talents.  But the third servant did nothing:  “So what the master got back on his investment was nothing more than the original talent he’d given out.”  Which led to the moral of the story that Jesus seemed to make:  That you can’t be a “good and faithful servant” unless you give back more to God than what He originally gave to you.  And that you can’t do that by being too focused on “avoiding sin:”

[W]hile it certainly is important to not make really stupid mistakes – which tend to have really bad consequences – that’s not the main job of a Christian.  The main job of a Christian is to “develop his talents[,” which] means a real Christian is bound to make mistakes.

Then too, once you realize that all real Christians make mistakes – if they’re really developing their talents – you’ll be that much less likely to develop the “holier than thou” complex that afflicts so many who call themselves Christian.  (Which is the kind of thing that led Paul to sayThe name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”) that note see Sin and cybernetics:  “Maybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us realize the purpose Jesus had for us, to wit:  to ‘live life in all its abundance.’”  (See John 10:10; the second part.)  Put another way, maybe “sin” is not so much to make people feel guilty – as some Christians say – but rather as a means of self-correction, so that we can better “hit the target…”

Which brings us back to the Parable of the talents, and what it means.  As  Wikipedia noted:

It is clear that the master sought some profit from the servants’ oversight.  A gain indicated faithfulness on the part of the servants.  The master rewards his servants according to how each has handled his stewardship.  He judges two servants as having been “faithful” and gives them a positive reward.  To the single unfaithful servant who “played it safe,” a negative compensation is given.

And speaking of the hazards of a Christian “playing it safe” – focusing too much on sin, and especially that of other people – that’s pretty much what I said in Singing a NEW song to  God: “How can we do greater works than Jesus if we interpret the Bible in a cramped, narrow, strict and/or limiting manner?”  (And for that matter, why does the Bible so often tell us to “sing to the Lord a new song?”   See Isaiah 42:10 and Psalms 96:1, 98:1, and 144:9.)

So here’s a New Year’s wish for 2017:  Let’s all work hard to avoid being boot-camp Christians.  Let’s all work hard, so that this “same time next year” – December 29, 2017 – we can say:

Boy, we sure developed our talents!!

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The upper image is courtesy of Same Time, Next Year (1978) – IMDb.  Photo  6 of 13, with the caption:  “Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn in Same Time, Next Year … by Archive Photos/Getty Images – © 2012.”


The post  Develop your talents with Bible study included the image at left, of Daniel in the lions’ den.  See also Daniel and the Lions Den – Hebrew Bible and ArtThe painting itself is by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), “the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim.  He moved to Paris in 1891 to study, and decided to stay there, being readily accepted in French artistic circles.   His painting entitled Daniel in the Lions’ Den was accepted into the 1896 Salon.”  The painting itself “uses light to symbolize God’s presence.  It is simple and there is not a lot of detail but it gets the point across.”  See also Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Re: Morality plays – noted here as “morality tales.”  See Wikipedia, referring to the…

genre of Medieval and early Tudor theatrical entertainment.  In their own time, these plays were known as interludes, a broader term given to dramas with or without a moral.  Morality plays are a type of allegory in which the protagonist is met by personifications of various moral attributes who try to prompt him to choose a Godly life over one of evil.  The plays were most popular in Europe during the 15th and 16th centuries.

See also Morality tale … by The Free Dictionary, and/or What is a moral tale? |  “a type of story, popular during the 15th and 16th centuries, that uses allegory to portray the struggle between good and evil, often culminating in a lesson.” 

Rock-and-roll-hall-of-fame-sunset.jpgRe:  The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “as seen in the notes.”  The “Hall” is shown at left, and in “Another brick in the wall.”

Re: “God’s name blasphemed…” See Romans 2:24.

The lower image is courtesy of  Parable of the talents – Wikipedia, with the caption:  “The parable of the talents, depicted in a 1712 woodcut.  The lazy servant searches for his buried talent, while the two other servants present their earnings to their master.”

On Andrew – “First Apostle” – and Advent

 St. Andrew and his “x-shaped cross” or saltire*

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Last Sunday – November 27, 2016 – was the First Sunday of Advent.  And this is the theme for that Season of Advent.  That is, that season of the church-year that ends on Christmas Eve:

Advent is “a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the Nativity of Jesus at Christmas.”  The theme of Bible readings is to prepare for the Second Coming while “commemorating the First Coming of Christ at Christmas.”

And as even Scrooge recognized, “Christmas is a very busy time for us.”  (The “spirit of Scrooge” is illustrated at right…)

But this time of year – in the church calendar – can also be very confusing.  That’s because both the Season of Advent and the church-year itself actually begin with St. Andrew, the “First Apostle.*”  His Feast Day is celebrated on November 30, today.

And according to the National Catholic Register, “St. Andrew was one of Jesus’ closest disciples, but many people know little about him.”  Which is another way of saying that he was pretty important, but that he often gets overlooked:

Andrew was “one of the four disciples closest to Jesus, but he seems to have been the least close of the four…   That’s ironic because Andrew was one of the first followers[.  In fact,] because he followed Jesus before St. Peter and the others – he is called the Protoklete or ‘First Called’ apostle.”

For more on this day see On St. Andrew, the “First Apostle.”  But getting back to the Season of Advent, see An early Advent medley, or On Advent – 2015.  (From last year.)

Or for that matter see On the readings for Advent Sunday, from 2014:

Advent Sunday is the first day of the liturgical year in the Western Christian churches.  It also marks the start of the season of Advent…  [T]he symbolism of the day is that Christ enters the church.   Advent Sunday is the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. This is equivalent to the Sunday nearest to St. Andrew’s Day, 30 November, and the Sunday following the Feast of Christ the King.

See Advent Sunday – Wikipedia.  The article added that for a time – starting about 300 A.D. – Advent was “kept as a period of fasting as strict as in Lent.”  But around 1917 the Catholic Church “abolished the precept of fasting …  but kept Advent as a season of penitence.”

I’ll be writing more about Advent in the coming weeks, but one thing to remember is that for those four Sundays, the Old Testament readings will be from the prophet Isaiah, shown below:

Isaiah is the prophet who guides our journey through Advent as we prepare for Christmas. Advent is a season of joyful anticipation, and Isaiah invites us to look forward to the coming of the Messiah, to prepare the way of the Lord.

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The prophet Isaiah, featured in this season’s Advent O.T. readings…

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The upper image is courtesy of and share, which included the full text of St. Andrew’s words before he died, showing “a very profound Christian spirituality.  [He] does not view the Cross as an instrument of torture but rather as the incomparable means for perfect configuration to the Redeemer, to the grain of wheat that fell into the earth.   Here we have a very important lesson to learn: Our own crosses acquire value if we consider them and accept them as a part of the Cross of Christ…”  See also Andrew the Apostle – Wikipedia.

“Note” also that an asterisk in the main text indicates a statement with a reference detailed further in this, the “notes” section.  Thus, as to the “saltire” see St Andrew … 5 facts you might have known:

Legend has it that he [Andrew] asked to be tied to an X-shaped cross because he did not feel worthy of dying on the same shape of cross as Jesus.  The shape has been represented by the white cross on the Scottish flag, the Saltire, since at least 1385.

As to the Feast of St. Andrew beginning the new church year, see Anticipating Christmas, Beginning with Saint Andrew.  Or see St. Andrew, from the Satucket website:

Just as Andrew was the first of the Apostles, so his feast is taken in the West to be the beginning of the Church Year…  The First Sunday of Advent is defined to be the Sunday on or nearest his feast (although it could equivalently be defined as the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day).

That site includes the Daily Office readings for the day:  “AM: Psalm 34; Isaiah 49:1-6; 1 Corinthians 4:1-16,” and “PM: Psalm 96, 100; Isaiah 55:1-5; John 1:35-42.”  Or see St Andrew, Apostle.

Re:  “Isaiah [as] the prophet who guides our journey.”  See Isaiah: Old Testament prophet for the Advent season, which added:  “Isaiah urges us to straighten out our crooked ways, tear down our mountains of misdeeds, and fill in the valleys of our bad habits.”

The lower image is courtesy of Isaiah – Wikipedia, with the full caption, “Isaiah, by Michelangelo, (c. 1508–1512, Sistine Chapel ceiling, Vatican City).”

John the Baptist, Peter and Paul – 2016

“Scholars Disputing” – a painting of Peter and Paul – yet still they managed to work together… 

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We have two major feast days coming up.

Friday, June 24, is the feast recalling the Birth of St. John, the Baptist.  (He went on to “preach in the Wilderness,” as shown in the painting at right.)  The following Wednesday, June 29, is the day for remembering St. Peter and St. Paul, Apostles.

And as noted in last year’s Peter, Paul – and other “relics:”

On January 18 [each year,] we celebrate the Confession of Peter:  “Thou art the Christ, Son of the Living God.”  A week later on January 25 we celebrate the Conversion of St. Paul.  Then comes June 29, when we celebrate both men…  (Emphasis added.) getting back to The Nativity of John the Baptist.  Last year’s post noted that  “John the Baptist served as a precursor, forerunner 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 [was] sent to prepare the way of your Son our Savior.'”

Which is pretty much what he did with his life…

See also Nativity of St. John the Baptist, from the Satucket website.  (It lists the Daily Office Readings.)  The article there helps explain the comment by Jesus – so puzzling to many – in Matthew 11:11:  “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist;  yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he:”

Which sounds a lot like a backhanded compliment

So what was the point Jesus was trying to make?  One interpretation goes like this:

John represents the climax of the long tradition of Jewish prophets…  John is the climax of the Law.  He lives in the wilderness, a life with no frills…  He has renounced the joys of family life, and dedicated himself completely [to] calling people to an observance of the law…   In terms of natural goodness, no one is better than John.  But he represents Law, not Grace.  Among men born of woman, among the once-born, he has no superior.  But anyone who has been born anew in the kingdom of God has something better than what John symbolizes.

How Faith WorksWhich brings up the controversy that’s been going on for over 2,000 years.

(Since the birth of the Church.)

That’s the ongoing controversy between Faith and Works.  (Or between Faith and following “the Letter of the Law,” as illustrated at right.)

The question is this:  “Are you ‘saved’ by following a set of rules and regulations, or by faith in Jesus alone?”  (See e.g.Controversy Over Faith And Works Continues.”  As also noted in last year’s Peter, Paul – and other “relics.”)

Thus the argument is about how “Jesus saves.”

Does Jesus want you to earn your way into heaven?  Or do you get there simply by accepting His free gift?  (Or put another way, the issue is one of  “legalism” versus “grace.”) this debate, John represented the Old Way.  (Resulting in the kind of “ending” illustrated at left.)  Jesus – on the other hand – represents the New Way.  “John is the climax of the Law…  But anyone who has been born anew in the kingdom of God has something better than what John symbolizes.”  That would be grace, which “excludes merit.”

Which is another way of saying that practicing Christians should not go around being obnoxious, as Paul noted in 1st Corinthians 4:7:

Who says that you are any better than other people?  What do you have that wasn’t given to you [by God]?  If you were given what you have, why are you bragging as if it weren’t a gift?

Of course many say, “I earned everything I have, through the sweat of my brow.”  Which raises the questions:  “Who gave you the brow?  And who gave you the capacity to sweat?”  Which is another way of saying the myth that you can earn your way into heaven dies hard.

But we digress…   Getting back to the feast for the Birth of John the Baptist:  The Bible readings for the day are Isaiah 40:1-11Psalm 85Acts 13:14b-26, and Luke 1:57-80.

Turning to the Feast for June 29:  Last year’s Peter, Paul – and other “relics” noted that that particular date was chosen as “the anniversary either of their death or of the translation of their relics:”

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

Thus the term relic – as used here – means the body parts of people considered especially holy. (Like Peter and Paul.)   In turn translating relics means moving those “holy objects from one locality to another.”  (Usually to a “better neighborhood,” metaphorically.  For example, the image above right  shows “St. Corbinian’s relics being moved to Freising from Merano.”)

Last year’s post indicated the dispute between Peter and Paul came to a head with the Incident at Antioch.  As to that dispute the Wikipedia article added,  “The final outcome of the incident remains uncertain resulting in several Christian views of the Old Covenant to this day.”

(Briefly, that question involves how much of the Old Testament “law” is binding on Christians.)

However, to me the main point of the Feast of Peter and Paul was that it’s okay to have differences of opinion between Christians.  (Or even to “squabble” from time to time.  And for that matter, that it’s okay to argue with God too, if and as necessary…)

In the meantime, enjoy the painting below, of Jesus and John, together as youngsters


 John the Baptist – at right – and the boy Jesus, enjoying their childhood

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

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

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

The upper “painting at right” – of John the Baptist preaching – is courtesy of John the Baptist – Wikipedia.  The caption: “St. John the Baptist Preaching,c. 1665, by Mattia Preti.”

Re: The Controversy Over Faith And Works.  See also the Matthew Henry Commentary on  Matthew 11:11:  “The things of God are of great and common concern.  God requires no more from us than the right use of the faculties he has given us.” 

Re:  John as “climax of the Law.”  See In the Bible we read about “the law”. What does this mean?

As God’s new creation we actually want to obey His law – not because it gets us anything, but because of our love for Him.  We still say with the Psalmist in his ageless words, “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8)

Emphasis added.  Which is yet another way of saying that even Christian of long-standing need to remind themselves that “the myth that you can earn your way into heaven dies hard.”   

The “Jesus is Lord” image is courtesy of How Faith Works | Christianity Today.  That article studied the issue in-depth, including a note on the “progressive character” of the Christian spiritual journey.  It said that “under the influence of the Word and the Spirit … believers begin to grow in holiness.”

Re: the “sweat of my brow,”  The term also refers to an “intellectual property law doctrine, chiefly related to copyright law.”  See Sweat of the brow – Wikipedia.

Re:  The image to the left of the paragraph, “Briefly, John represented the Old Way.”  Titled “Salome receives the Head of John the Baptist,” it is courtesy of

The subject is from the New Testament [Mark 6, verses 14-29].  Salome had danced so well for King Herod that he swore he would grant her any request.  Her mother, Herodias, who sought revenge on John the Baptist, persuaded Salome to ask for his head.  The old woman behind Salome may be Herodias.”

The lower image is courtesy of John the Baptist – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “John the Baptist (right) with child Jesus, painting by Bartolomé Esteban Perez Murillo.”

Re: John and Jesus enjoying their childhood.  See also Childhood – Wikipedia, which noted:

Nature deficit disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, refers to the trend in the United States and Canada towards less time for outdoor play resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. With the heavy use of cellphones, computers, video games and television, children have more reasons to stay inside rather than outdoors exploring…  The media has accelerated the trend by de-emphasizing views of nature, as in Disney films.

See also Food for thought, i.e.:  “something that warrants serious consideration.”

On June 6, 2016

Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg

Men of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade “into the jaws of death,” on D-Day, 72 years ago…

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As of today – June 6, 2016 – it’s been 72 years since the Normandy landings.  (Otherwise known as “D-Day.”)  See 72nd Anniversary 2016 Events #DDay72, which noted celebrations in France:

World leaders and other dignitaries flew into Normandy to pay tribute to the real VIPs – the veterans themselves – whilst the global media descended on the region in huge numbers as they do every five years.

Impromptu pipes and drum on Gold Beach during the D-Day 70th AnniversaryThat article was affiliated with “the UK’s only museum” dedicated to the D-Day Landings,” near the “Southsea Castle in Portsmouth,” England.  It included the picture at right, of last year’s “Canopies Over Normandy (#DDay71).”  In that “jump:”

British airborne veteran Jock Hutton (89) and American veteran Jim “Pee Wee” Martin (93) both returned to the skies above Normandy.  At different ends of the invasion area, both veterans bravely made tandem parachute jumps into the countryside into which they dropped 70 years before.

Closer to home, see D-Day in the United States – Time and Date.  That site noted that throughout America, museums and war memorials “host exhibitions featuring photos and film as a tribute to soldiers who were part of the Normandy landings.  D-Day memorials and ceremonies are also held to remember these soldiers.”  The article also noted that the invasion of Normandy was “one of history’s most significant military attacks.”

I first wrote about the commemoration – and “covenant renewal” – in On D-Day and confession, in 2014.  That post compared the kind of “de-briefing” that American fliers got – after their missions – with the concepts of “sin” and “repentance.”  But the goal back then was not to make people feel guilty.  (As some seem to imply.)  Instead they were and are “tools to help us get closer to the target ‘next time out,’ even if we know we can never become ‘perfect.'”

Description of  Planes from the 344th Bomb Group, which led the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day on June 6, 2014. Operations started in March 1944 with attacks on targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. After the beginning of the Normandy invasion, the Group was active at Cotentin Peninsula, Caen, Saint-Lo and the Falaise Gap.  (Photo by Galerie Bilderwelt/Getty Images)Then came On the DORs for June 6, 2015.  (Which included the image at left.)  That post noted that June 6, 2015 was a “red letter day, and not just because it’s been 71 years since the best-known D-Day.”  And from the Daily Office Readings for that day, I came up with the idea that those 40 years of wandering in the wilderness were a kind of “boot camp.”

(Of the kind necessary for the armed forces to succeed in their mission, 72 years ago…)

That idea was based on Deuteronomy 29, which was both a commemoration – like our remembering D-Day – and a “renewal of the covenant.”

Which by the way, seems to be another function of such celebrations of such long-ago events.

We “renew the covenant” that led thousands upon thousands of perfectly sane men and women to risk their lives for a cause they believed in.  And in that effort, those people who fought those battles 72 years ago succeeded largely because they weren’t “rigid.”

Put another way, this is a day to remember that “independent judgment” – not rigid obedience to a pre-formed set of “rules” – is the key to success in life, and especially the spiritual life:

During World War II, German generals often complained that U.S. forces were unpredictable…  After the Normandy invasion in 1944, American troops found that their movements were constrained by the thick hedgerows…   In response, “Army soldiers invented a mechanism on the fly that they welded onto the front of a tank to cut through hedgerows…”   American troops are famous for this kind of individual initiative.  It’s a point of pride among officers that the American way of war emphasizes independent judgment in the fog and friction of battle, rather than obedience and rules.  (E.A.)

Which is precisely the kind of Bible study I believe in.  And that in turn is “just another way of saying that by reading the Bible with an open mind, you’ll be on your way to the creative judgment that overcomes ‘the fog and friction’ of everyday life.”

On a somewhat related subject, this upcoming June 11th will celebrate St. Barnabus.  For more on that, see On St. Barnabus’ Day, 2015.  That post spoke of Barnabus, the apostle who was open-minded enough to welcome Paul, formerly an enemy of the early Church.

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

“So we might just call Barnabas ‘the Apostle of Second Chances.’”


 If it wasn’t for Barnabus, Paul’s experience “might have gone for naught…”

*   *   *   *

 The upper image is courtesy of Normandy landings – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption: “Men of the 16th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 1st Infantry Division wade ashore on Omaha Beach on the morning of 6 June 1944.”  Clicking on the picture in the Wikipedia article will lead to the attribution: “File: Into the Jaws of Death 23-0455M edit.jpg.”

The lower image is courtesy of Conversion of Paul the Apostle – Wikipedia.  The caption:  “The Conversion of Saint Paul, a 1600 painting by the Italian artist Caravaggio.”  See also What happened on the road to Damascus?  That site noted:  “The events that happened on the road to Damascus relate not only to the apostle Paul, whose dramatic conversion occurred there, but they also provide a clear picture of the conversion of all people.”  (E.A.)

On Eastertide – and “artistic license”

“Moses doesn’t like this.  Moses doesn’t like this one bit…*“


Last (Holy) Saturday night, I stayed home and watched part of The Ten Commandments.  (As noted further below.)  That’s where Moses – as seen in the image above – comes in.

By the way, the “quote” is pure illeism:  “the tendency in some individuals to refer to themselves in the third person.”  That’s where the imaginary quote – “Moses doesn’t like this. Moses doesn’t like this one bit“ – comes in.  (Moses wrote the First Five Books of the Bible in the third person.)

There’s more on that later, but first a note:  In many churches this year, the Annunciation will be celebrated on April 4, instead of the usual March 25.  (See e.g. The Lectionary Page.)  That is:

The Annunciation would normally fall on Friday, March 25, 2016.  That day, however, is Good Friday, and Annunciation is never celebrated during Holy Week.  It is transferred, therefore, to Monday, April 4, 2016, the first open day after Easter Sunday.

See also An Annunciation-Good Friday anamoly.  (Including the image at left.)  Then there’s Easter Season – AND BEYOND, which noted that Easter isn’t just one day, it’s an entire season.  (Aka Eastertide.) 

In turn, Eastertide is defined as that long period – of 50 days – that runs from Easter Sunday to Pentecost.  (For more on Pentecost, see Pentecost – “Happy Birthday, Church!”)  But before we get into that, I wanted to make a few comments on watching part of The Ten Commandments, the Saturday night before Easter Sunday.

(The real version, the one with Charlton Heston.  You know, the one God watches…)

I happened on the movie while channel surfing the night of Holy Saturday.   I came in just as Moses was about to learn he wasn’t really a Prince of Egypt, as he’d been taught “since birth.”

As the faithful reader will know, that was pretty much the topic of my .

(Briefly, What did Moses know, and when did he know it?)  

As for watching the movie:  Some time and a lot of commercials after I started watching, I realized this Hollywood version was a whole lot longer than the original.  So I pulled out my trusty Bible and checked.  Sure enough, in a short time I found Exodus 2:11-14, telling what made Moses to flee to Midian (seen at right):

One day, after Moses had grown up, he went out to where his own people were and watched them at their hard labor.  He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his own people.  Looking this way and that and seeing no one, he killed the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.  The next day he went out and saw two Hebrews fighting.  He asked the one in the wrong, “Why are you hitting your fellow Hebrew?”  The man said, “Who made you ruler and judge over us?  Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian?”  Then Moses was afraid and thought, “What I did must have become known.”  (Emphasis added.)

That’s it.   That’s all there was to the Bible version.  But Cecil B. DeMille turned those four short verses into what seemed like hours of viewing time.  (Including commercials of course.)  He also added a host of complicated sub-plots that simply aren’t anywhere to be found in the Bible.

From which – I figured – there had to be some kind of object lesson.

Unfortunately, the Bible doesn’t give any clue about how Moses knew those two fighting Hebrews were “his own people.”  (That passage follows right after Exodus 2:10, describing how Moses was adopted by Pharaoh’s daughter:  “When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son.  She named him Moses, saying,  ‘I drew him out of the water.'”)

The point of all this being:  The 1956 Hollywood-DeMille version of this passage featured a great deal of artistic license, used to fill in a whole lot of blanks in Exodus 2:11-14.

If you don’t believe me, read the Wikipedia plot summary of the movie yourself.  You’ll see that the mere summary alone is much longer than the Bible account.  For another thing, you’ll see that the movie included a whole lot of drama that the Bible doesn’t even infer.

Anne Baxter as Nefretiri in Cecil B. DeMille's 'The Ten Commandments.'You’ll see things like Moses growing up to be a winning Egyptian diplomat, and general.  (As in “winning a war with Ethiopia.”)  Then too there’s the torrid love affair between Moses and Nefretiri. (Played by a very hot Anne Baxter, as seen at left.)

The movie also had Moses meeting “the stone-cutter Joshua.”

Incidentally, Joshua did go on to become “the leader of the Israelite tribes after the death of Moses.”  (He also went on to write the sixth book of the Bible, after Moses wrote his “First Five.”)  But the movie had Moses meeting Joshua way too early, while the Israelites were still slaves in Egypt.  (And it was this Joshua who – in the movie – tells Moses “of the Hebrew God.”)

But in the Bible, Joshua isn’t mentioned until Exodus 17:9.  That was way after the Israelites had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea and wandered around the wilderness a good long while.

Debra Paget in Cecil B. DeMille's 'The Ten Commandments.'For more examples of such artistic license – again – check out the Wiki-plot summary yourself.  But here are a few more highlights.

For one thing, while Moses is still an Egyptian general and overlord, he saves an old woman from being crushed to death.  That woman – in the movie – turns out to be “his natural mother, Yoshebel.” (Or Jochebed.)  Then there’s the matter of the beautiful Hebrew virgin “Lilia.”  (Seen at right.)

In the movie – but not mentioned in the Bible – Lilia is engaged to Joshua.  But she is variously lusted after by the evil Egyptian “master builder Baka” – played to perfection by Vincent Price – and by the “ambitious Hebrew chief overseer Dathan.”  (Ditto, by Edward G. Robinson.)  Then too, in the movie – but not in the Bible – Moses kills Baka, but only to save Joshua.  (In the movie, Joshua attacked Baka to keep him from raping Lilia, and he in turn is rescued by Moses.) 

Further, when Moses “confesses” to Joshua that he too is a Hebrew, the ever-sneaky Dathan overhears the confession.  In turn Dathan tells Pharoah – Yul Brynner – and in turn is rewarded with his freedom, various “riches” – and his own shot at Lilia.

But in a strange turn of events, when Pharaoh tells Moses to take His People and leave Egypt,  Dathan gets turned out with them.  From that point on – throughout the film – Dathan remains a “thorn in the flesh” to Moses.  (As the Apostle Paul might put it.  See 2d Corinthians 12:7.)

There are other examples of such whole cloth and/or artistic license episodes drawn from those four short verses in Exodus 2:11-14.  They include but aren’t limited to:

Yul Brynner as Rameses in Cecil B. DeMille's 'The Ten Commandments.'1) A Hebrew woman named Memnet telling Nefretiri that Moses is the son of Hebrew slaves, then being murdered – pushed off a high balcony – by Nefretiri.  2) Moses voluntarily becoming a slave himself – after he wangles the truth from Nefertiri – “to learn more of their lives.”  And 3)  Moses brought in chains to Pharaoh – as seen at left, played by Yul Brynner – and then “banished to the desert.”  (All because Nefertiri is still madly in love with himMoses – and because Yul Brynner doesn’t want Moses as a martyr to his new queen.)

These then are the few comments I wanted to make, “on watching parts of The Ten Commandments on the Saturday night before Easter Sunday. ”

Which brings up the topic of rabbit trails.  Some people say running down a rabbit trail is an “exercise in futility.  It means wasting time and energy pursuing leads that go nowhere – or everywhere.”  (Obviously, if a rabbit trail “leads everywhere,” it doesn’t waste your time.)

Others take a more broad view, like Today’s Idiom Is … Rabbit Trail.  That fellow-blogger noted that while going down rabbit trails in “discussions can be fun and interesting,” they can also “interfere with resolving the topic at hand.”  But the blogger noted this distinction:

You would never use that phrase to describe a leisurely trip when you explored a side path and had an interesting adventure.  That’s more like taking the road less traveled[,] which is a literary reference to a poem by Robert Frost, “The Road Not Taken.” (E.A.)

So “we” may have ended up going down a rabbit trail here.  Or we may have “taken the road less traveled.”  Either way, it was fun for me, and I hope for the reader as well.  (Not only did I learn some things, I also got to share pix of some really hot 1956 Hollywood babes…) 

In the meantime, back to the subject of Easter being “not just one day, but an entire season.”  (Also called Eastertide.)  I’ll be writing more about Eastertide in the near future.  But for now we can look forward to Pentecost – as the Birthday of the Church!


An artist’s depiction of Pentecost – the “birthday of the Church…”

*   *   *   *

I borrowed the idea of the upper image from On Moses and “illeism,” a post I did on May 20, 2014.  But to get a larger version of the image I went to

Also, as to the asterisk (*), I cut-and-pasted the caption quote for the upper image from Moses and “illeism.”  As in: “Moses doesn’t like this.  Moses doesn’t like this one bit…“

The map of Moses’ path to Midian is courtesy of

Re:  “Yoshebel” or Jochebed.  Wikipedia noted that the “story of Jochebed is thought to be described in the Book of Exodus (2:1–10) – although she is not explicitly named here.”  The article further noted that according to the Torah, she was “a daughter of Levi and mother of Aaron, Miriam and Moses.” Also, she is “praised for her faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews.

The images of Anne Baxter (as Nefretiri) and Debra Paget (as “Lilia”) are courtesy of Pictures – DeMille’s ‘The Ten Commandments’ still the Biblical Epic Master Class.  The image of Yul Brynner as Pharaoh (Ramses) – to the left of the paragraph beginning “There are other examples” – is also courtesy of that website.

Re: Joshua’s first mention in the Bible.  See When is Joshua first mentioned in the Bible –

Re: Rabbit trails.  Today’s Idiom also noted this:  “If you’ve ever seen a dog follow a real rabbit trail in a field or someone’s back yard, you’ll see where this idiom comes from.  The dog will endlessly sniff around in circles, never getting anywhere.  And it certainly never finds the rabbit!” 

Other links about the “road less traveled” – or more precisely “the road not taken” – include:  The road less travelled – meaning and originThe Road Less Traveled – New York UniversityThe Road Not Taken – Wikipedia, and How to Take the Road Less Traveled: 14 Steps – wikiHow.

The lower image is courtesy of Pentecost – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, with the caption: A Western depiction of the Pentecost, painted by Jean II Restout, 1732.” 

On Ash Wednesday and Lent – 2016


Last year, Ash Wednesday came on February 18.   This year, it’s celebrated on February 10.

Which brings up a post I did last year at this time:  On Ash Wednesday and Lent.  That post was on and about the “whole topic of Ash Wednesday and the Season of Lent:”

According to the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, Jesus Christ spent 40 days fasting in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan.  Lent originated as a mirroring of this, fasting 40 days as preparation for Easter.

See also Lent 101 – The Upper Room.  So the “40 days of Lent” are supposed to commemorate the 40 days that Jesus spent “wandering in the wilderness.”  On a related note, that act by Jesus mirrored the 40 years that the Hebrews – led by Moses – also spent “wandering around.”

But before that 40 days of Lenten “wandering in the wilderness,” there’s one last celebration, one last “blowout.”  (The whole Christian – or liturgical – calendar year is pretty much filled with such alternating seasons of celebration and penance…)

For example,  Lent is a season devoted to “prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.  But that season of self-denial is preceded by “Fat Tuesday.”  That’s the day before Ash Wednesday, which means this year Fat Tuesday is February 9.

mardi grasThe French term for Fat Tuesday is Mardi Gras, and Mardi Gras is now a generic term for “Let’s Party!!

As Wikipedia put it, “Popular practices on Mardi Gras include wearing masks and costumes, overturning social conventions, dancing, sports competitions, parades, debauchery, etc.”

See also A Brief History of Mardi Gras – Photo Essays – TIME, which noted that “Mardi Gras isn’t all nudity and drunken debauchery (though, yes, there is definitely nudity and drunken debauchery).”  (Emphasis in original.)

But – as the article noted – the origin of Fat Tuesday was far more spiritual:

In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance.  Since they didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets.  They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available.  It was a great feast!  Through the years Mardi Gras has evolved (in some places) into a pretty wild party with little to do with preparing for the Lenten season of repentance and simplicity.

Lent 101, emphasis added.  And incidentally, there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  That’s because Sundays don’t count in the calculation.

40 Days And 40 NightsThat’s important because it means you can still enjoy whatever it is you’ve given up for Lent.  (A fact overlooked by the producers of 40 Days and 40 Nights, as shown at right.  That “2002 romantic comedy film” showed the main character in a “period of abstinence from any sexual contact for the duration of Lent.”  But as noted, he could have “taken Sundays off.”)

But getting back to the subject at hand…   You can see the full set of Bible readings for the day at Ash Wednesday.  The highlight – once again – is the Gospel Matthew 6:1-6,16-21.  That’s where Jesus warned of “practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.”

On that subject, fasting (and abstinence are the usual components of a Lenten discipline.   But as Jesus noted, “Do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.”  Instead, He said to basically put on a happy face.  That way, “your fasting may be seen not by others, but by your Father who is in secret.”  (Emphasis added.)

As for almsgiving, Jesus said, “Do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do … so that they may be praised by others.”  Instead, “When you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret.

Incidentally, that’s where the expression the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing came from.  And finally Jesus said this about praying in public:

Whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret;  and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

Are we getting the picture here? 

The one theme Jesus kept returning to –  over and over again – was hypocrisy.  That includes – but is not limited to – “the false assumption of an appearance of virtue or religion.”

I wrote about this whole controversy in On praying in public.  I concluded that post with a variation of the classic Henny Youngman one-liner,  “Take school prayer…  Please!

But we digress…

If you’re interested in more history on Ash Wednesday see The History and Meaning of Ash Wednesday.  That site noted the “pouring of ashes on one’s body” – as an “outer manifestation of inner repentance” – is an ancient practice.

The earliest mention of that practice seems to have come at the end of the Book of Job, “older than any other book of the Bible.”  In Job 42:6 – and after he is rebuked by God – Job says, “I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”  (Not to mention “dressing in sackcloth, a very rough material.”  On a related note, see also On Job, the not-so-patient.)

And finally see The ‘Splainer: Ash Wednesday and dirty Christian foreheads, about “washing:”

No one is required to keep the ashes on his or her face after the ritual.  But some Christians choose to, perhaps as a reminder to themselves that they are mortal and fallible, while others may choose to leave them on as a witness to their faith in the hope others will ask about them and open a door to sharing their faith.

Here’s wishing you a happy and spiritually-fulfilling Lent!


*   *   *   *

 The upper image is courtesy of Mardi Gras – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The caption:  “Cayman Mardi Gras 2016 Official Logo.”  To “overstate the obvious,” it’s in the “Caymans:”

Cayman Mardi Gras has now been recognised as one of the island’s National Festivals. Celebrating the traditional Fat Tuesday, they also host a festive Monday Food Festival as well as an all day EDM Ash Wednesday.  The event attracts thousands of attendees during the 3 day festival and includes a line up of international celebrities and performers.  The Cayman Mardi Gras Festival is slowly becoming a major tourist attraction to the island nation and with the large international presence will attract bigger performing names in the future.

The initial indented quote about Lent is from Wikipedia

I used the image to the left of the “Let’s party” paragraph in last year’s post.  In turn, the image is courtesy of A Brief History of Mardi Gras … TIME.  That article includes the caption:

OK, Mardi Gras’ reputation as an alcohol-fueled, nudity-filled bacchanal is not completely unearned.  In 1973, a ban was established on Krewe parades in the increasingly rowdy and narrow streets of the French Quarter.  In subsequent years, tourists and other drunken fools descended on the Quarter (especially the particularly saucy Bourbon Street) en masse, and the tradition of showing skin for beads began.  Native New Orleanians despise the reputation, and rarely venture into the Quarter during Carnival season.

Emphasis added, which means “there’s probably some kind of object lesson there…”

The image “40 days and 40 nights” is courtesy of 40 Days and 40 Nights – Official Site.

For another take on praying in public, see school prayer.

The lower image is courtesy of Lent – Wikipedia.  The caption:  

Lent celebrants carrying out a street procession during Holy Week [in Granada, Nicaragua.] The violet color is often associated with penance and detachment.  Similar Christian penitential practice is seen in other Catholic countries, sometimes associated with mortification of the flesh.

The article added that Lent’s “institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus … which ultimately culminates in the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

On Jesus as a teenager – REDUX

James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.jpg


Before getting into Jesus as a teenager, note that the upcoming February 15 is Transfiguration Sunday.

On that note, see On Exodus (Part II) and Transfiguration, a post I did last year at this time.  That post noted that the Last Sunday of the Epiphany season is also – by tradition – known as Transfiguration Sunday.  That’s based on the account of the Transfiguration of Jesus – in its earliest form, in Mark 9:2–8.  (I erroneously wrote that it was in “Mark 9:29.”)

Among other things, that post talked about the movie Exodus: Gods and Kings.  Specifically, it talked of how the movie painted a picture of Moses that was the “opposite of what we’ve been led to expect for other reasons.  For one thing he hears voices, strange and unknown, just like Jesus.”  (Like Jesus):

“I fasted for three months.  I even whipped myself before I went to sleep.  At first it worked.  Then the pain came back.  And the voices.  They call me by the name: Jesus.”

I noted that this was not unlike the idea that “‘Jesus may not have known the minute He was born who He was.”  That is, that Jesus may have “found out some time later in His life” just who He was, just like Moses had to have experienced.

That post also noted that Moses wasn’t allowed to enter the Promised Land, even after leading the Children of Israel through 40 years of Wandering in the Wilderness.  However- with the Transfiguration of Jesus – Moses finally was allowed to enter that Promised Land.  And that, even though it was a thousand years or more after he expected to.  (Which just goes to show that God’s timetable may not be anything like the timetables we expect in our lives.)

But getting back to Jesus as a teenager:  That post asked the musical question:

What did Jesus know, and when did He know it?

In other words, did Jesus know that He was the First-born Son of God when He was a teenager.

Which raises a host of other questions.  For example, if Jesus did know that He was in fact the First-born Son of God – as a teenager – He could see into the future.  And He would know – absolutely – everything that ever was or ever had been.

So maybe – as a teenager – Jesus did know everything there ever was to know, and everything possible that ever could be known.  Yet there He was, stuck in that backwater, hayseed town of Nazareth, far away from any possible excitement, like what He might find in Jerusalem.

And, probably the worst thing of all for Him was that He had to take orders from older people, people who He knew didn’t know a fraction of what He knew about “real life.”  Of course:

Since every teenager in the world has felt exactly the same way – since the beginning of time – how could the people in Nazareth know this teenager was any different?

*   *   *   *

Transfiguration by Lorenzo Lotto

“The Transfiguration, where Moses realized a centuries-old dream…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of James Dean – Wikipedia.  The caption: “Dean in Rebel Without a Cause.”  The article noted, “Dean’s premature death … cemented his legendary status.”

As to the word “redux” in the title, see the notes to On “Job the not patient” – REDUX:

It’s an allusion to the 1971 book by John Updike, Rabbit Redux … about an aging high-school basketball star – Harry “Rabbit” Angstrom – as he went through five decades of life… See Wikipedia [which] added that the word redux means “brought back” or “restored…” Wikipedia also noted, “Rabbit Redux led to a redux in popularity of the word redux…” 

Re: Last year’s post on Exodus … and Transfiguration.  In that post I erroneously wrote that the “account of the Transfiguration of Jesus” was described in “Mark 9:29.”)

The lower image was borrowed from earlier posts including On the readings for October 26, and in turn is courtesy of The Transfiguration of Christ – Lorenzo Lotto –

Develop your talents with Bible study


This post continues the theme of Bible study to open your mind and develop your talents.

On that note, the Daily Office Readings for Friday, December 18, included Zechariah 7:13:

Since they refused to listen when I called to them, I would not listen when they called to me, says the LORD

Which makes sense.  If you don’t pay attention to God, chances are “He” won’t  pay attention to you!

And it’s a pretty good summary of the theme of this blog.  The goal is to help you – and me – get a better feel for communicating with the Force that Created the Universe.

The Gospel for Friday was Matthew 25:14-30, with the Parable of the talents, shown above.

In that parable, a master gave some “talents” to three servants.   (Taken literally, a “talent” was worth 50 or 60 shekels, and so was a good chunk of change.)  Then the master went off on a long journey.   When he got back home, he took stock of his “investment.”

The servant who got 10 talents gave back the 10 “invested,” plus 10 talents more.  (A return of 100%.)  The servant who got five talents did the same.  (Returned the original five and another five more, another 100% return.)  Then came the “wicked and slothful” servant.

That servant didn’t “develop his talents.”  He just buried the money in a hole.  (Metaphorically, he – the slothful servant – fit his talents into a pre-formed, pre-shaped cubby-hole.)  So what the master got back on his investment was nothing more than the original talent he’d given out.

So here’s the moral of the story.  (Per Aesop – seen at left – and giving the parable its “plain meaning.”)

The moral?  Develop your talents!

That seems to be the point Jesus was making:  That you can’t be a “good and faithful servant” unless you give back more to God than what He originally gave you. (And that you can’t do that being too literal – too focused on “avoiding sin” – and thus becoming just another carbon copy Christian.)

Put another way, many Christians seem to think their whole job here on earth is to avoid sin.

But while it certainly is important to not make really stupid mistakes – which tend to have really bad consequences – that’s not the main job of a Christian.  The main job of a Christian is to “develop his talents.”  That in turn means a real Christian is bound to make mistakes.

(Which should keep him or her from developing a “holier than thou” complex.)

On that note see Sin and cybernetics:  “Maybe the concepts of sin, repentance and confession are simply tools to help us realize the purpose Jesus had for us, to wit:  to ‘live life in all its abundance.'”  (See John 10:10; the second part.)

On the matter of carbon copy Christians, see “Another brick in the wall” and Reflections on Volume 3.  And since we’re looking back on posts I did this past year, here are some more:

The Bible and mysticism said Christianity is about “obtaining unity with God, through Christ.” And that fits in with the original meaning of mystic.  (One “who seeks by contemplation and self-surrender to obtain unity with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute.”)  Also this:

The terms “mystic” or “mysticism” seem to throw Southern Baptists and other conservative Christians into apoplexy.  (Try it sometime!!!)

(But of course I was only joking…)

On a related note, see The True Test of Faith.  That post imagined two Christians, who both found out at the end of their lives that The Faith was a hoax.  The guy who spent his life “avoiding sin” was really mad.  But the guy who used the Bible to develop his talents said, “You know, I wouldn’t change a thing.”   (Thus the “True Test of Faith…”)

Finally, Shadrach and the Fiery Furnace was about three other “good and faithful servants.”

They were about to be thrown into a burning fiery furnace.  And they knew that God could save them if He wanted.  But they also knew that that might not fit in with His purpose.

Thus the “real kicker in the story” came in Daniel 3 (16-18).  There the three men – on the cusp of being thrown into the fiery furnace – gave their answer to King Nebuchadnezzer:

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar…  If our God …  is able to deliver us, he will deliver us…  But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Note the emphasized “But if not…”  So the three men were really saying something like this:  “O Nebuchadnezzar, it’s up to God Himself to decide if He’ll deliver us…  God certainly has the power to save us, but even if He decides not to, we will still believe in and follow Him…”

Now that is a true test(ament) of faith

Another guy – Daniel – who gave a “true test(ament) of faith…”

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of the Wikipedia article, Parable of the talents.

Re:  God as “He.”  See Anthropomorphism, an “innate tendency of human psychology.”  (Wikipedia.) In other words, human thought tends to limit “God” to its ability to comprehend “Him.”

Re: “To help you – and me – get better…”  See for example, Why teachers learn as much as their students.  (Which may also apply to bloggers and their readers.)

Re” investment.”  See Amount Considered a Good Rate of Return on Investments:  “Burying cash in coffee cans in your yard is a terrible long-term investing plan.  If it manages to survive the elements, it will still be worthless given enough time.”  See also What rate of return should you expect … on your investments, indicating that as of 2014, a return between 10 and 15% was extremely good.

Re: cubby hole.  See Cubby-hole – Wikipedia, indicating a “small, snug place, which may be considered and used as a place of safety for children.”   But see also 1st Corinthians 3:2:  “I had to feed you with milk, not with solid food, because you weren’t ready for anything stronger.  And you still aren’t ready…”   Thus you might say this blog is designed for people who are ready for “something stronger,” to wit:  exploring the mystical side of the Bible.  See also 1st Peter 2:2.

Re: making mistakes.  See The Bible as “transcendent” meditation, on “so-called Christians who seem … to focus on sin – usually somebody else’s – rather than all the positive aspects that the discipline of regular Bible-reading can provide.”  On that note, one writer said of meditating – which I thought like the Christian path – that the “would-be meditator might want to give himself permission to make mistakes.  ‘You will make them anyway and will be much more comfortable – and get along better with this exercise – if you give yourself permission in advance.’”

The Aesop image is courtesy of Wikipedia.  And in case you were wondering, Aesop is the one on the left.  The cute babe on the right is “the beautiful Rhodope.”  (The complete caption is “The beautiful Rhodope, in love with Aesop; engraving by Bartolozzi, 1782, after Kauffman‘s original.”)  

The point being that Aesop’s ability to have “the beautiful Rhodope” find him attractive offers hope to those gents physically “lacking,” but with an ability “give good story.”  (Aesop was said to be not just old, but extremely ugly and a hunchback.)  

 Re: “carbon copy Christians.”  See also How to Break the Cookie-Cutter, Carbon Copy Christian Cycle, and The Carbon Paper/ Carbon Copy Christian | JUGGERNAUT.

Re: making mistakes.  See also Make Mistakes—The Importance Of Failure – Vanseo Design.

The lower image is courtesy of Daniel and the Lions Den – Hebrew Bible and ArtThe painting itself is by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859-1937), “the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim.  He moved to Paris in 1891 to study, and decided to stay there, being readily accepted in French artistic circles.   His painting entitled Daniel in the Lions’ Den was accepted into the 1896 Salon.”  The painting itself “uses light to symbolize God’s presence.  It is simple and there is not a lot of detail but it gets the point across.”  See also Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

“Bible basics” revisited

Vince Lombardi on The basics:  “Gentlemen, this is a football!”

This is a reprise of a post I did back in April 2014:  Some Bible basics from Vince Lombardi and Charlie Chan.  It started a couple days ago when I went back to check some of the first posts I did for this blog.  In this one, I saw that the images I’d put in were no longer there.

So, rather than fool around looking up new images for an old post, I figured I’d do what Jesus suggested in Mark 2:21-22:

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment…  And no one pours new wine into old wineskins…”

So this “new wineskin” will begin with Vince Lombardi – in the upper image – being a fanatic on teaching the basics of football.  It starts with a story about Vince’s reaction to his Green Bay Packers losing to a team they should have beaten handily.  (A loss where the team looked “more like whipped puppies.”)  At practice the following Monday, Lombardi began by saying, “This morning, we go back to basics.”

Then – holding up an object for the team to see – Lombardi said, “Gentlemen, this is a football!

So, here are some basics for understanding the Bible.  And on how reading the Bible can help you become “all that you can be,” like the old Army commercial said.

For starters there’s the second part of John 6:37.  That’s where Jesus made a promise to each one of us, for all time: “Anyone who comes to me, I will never turn away.”  That’s a promise we can take to the bank, metaphorically and otherwise.

That is, we are aren’t “saved” by being members of a particular denomination.  (No matter how much they may tell you to the contrary.)  We are saved by starting that John 6:37 “walk toward Jesus.”  We start the interactive process of walking down that road to knowing Him better.

And the best way to start that walk is by reading the Bible on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, many people start reading the Bible as if it were a novel.  (Like one by Charles Dickens, seen at right.)  They start at the very beginning and move toward the end.  But they tend to bog down in Leviticus.  (If they get that far.)

Jesus may have known the problem would come up, so He did us a favor. He boiled down the message of the entire Bible into two simple sentences.  (A kind of “Cliff-Note” summary):

Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ said:  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your strength, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it: you shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”

That’s Matthew 22:37-39, where Jesus boiled the whole Bible down to two simple “shoulds.” You should try all your life to love, experience and get to know “God” with all you have. And to the extent possible, you should try to live peaceably with your “neighbors.”

In plain words, your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to become one with the “unified whole” that is our world today.  (A big part of which is God, who started the whole thing…)

So, whenever you read something in the Bible that doesn’t make sense, or might mean two different things, or seems contrary to “common sense,” you have this Summary to fall back on. (It also works if you hear something from a slick televangelist that just doesn’t sound right.)

For example, some Christians become snake handlers. (Like “Stumpy,” at left.)  They do this based on a literal interpretation of Mark 16:18.  In other words, taking an isolated passage from the Bible out of context:

“In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”

(But see also On snake-handling, Fundamentalism and suicide, Part I and Part II.)

Other Christians work to develop large families – as a way of showing their faith – again based on focusing literally on Psalm 127:3-5, taking that one passage out of context: “Children are a gift from God; they are his reward.  Children born to a young man are like sharp arrows to defend him.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.”  (See Quiverfull – Wikipedia.)

On the other hand, you could approach the Bible as presenting a plain, common-sense view of some people in the past who have achieved that “union with a Higher Power.”  (Which is of course the goal of most religions and/or other spiritual or ethical disciplines.)

So what’s the pay-off?

Simply put, the discipline of regular Bible-reading can lead to a capacity to transcend the painful and negative aspects of life.  It can also lead to the ability to live with “serenity and inner peace.”   On the other hand, the discipline could also lead to a your developing a “zest, a fervor and gusto in life plus a much higher ability to function.”

To some people, that flies in the face of the popular view of “Christians.”  (Some of whom seem to revel more in telling others how they should live their lives.)   Which leads to the question:  “Do you have to be grumpy to be a Christian?”  The answer is:  “Probably not.”

For example, someone asked Thomas Merton (American Trappist Monk) this question:  “How can you tell if a person has gone through inner, spiritual transformation?”  Merton smiled and said, “Well it is very difficult to tell but holiness is usually accompanied by a wonderful sense of humor…”

Then too, Jesus Himself said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  (See the second part of John 10:10, in the RSV, emphasis added.  Or as translated in The Living Bible (Paraphrased): “My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.”)  So what’s not to be happy about?

Which means that ideally, one who reads the Bible on a daily basis should not become an intolerant, self-righteous prig.  (Going around telling others how to live.)  Or as Saint Peter said, “Don’t let me hear of your … being a busybody and prying into other people’s affairs.”  (See 1st Peter 4:15, in The Living Bible translation.  And note that in most other translations, “meddlers” and “busybodies” are ranked right up there with murderers, thieves and evil-doers.)

Instead, such Bible-Reading on a regular basis should lead to a well-adjusted and open-minded person.  And also one who is tolerant of the inherent weaknesses – including his own – of all people.  In other, a person able to live life “in all its fullness.”

So how do you do all that?

One of the best ways to begin may be from one of the great philosophers of our time:




The upper image is courtesy of  PACKERVILLE, U.S.A.: “Gentlemen, this is a football.”

The wineskin image is courtesy of