Monthly Archives: October 2020

On Halloween 2020 – “Scariest ever?”

Can you say, “Truer words were never spoken?

*   *   *   *

Welcome to Halloween 2020. Which as it turns out, is a Halloween Like We’ve Never Seen!

With the convergence of a full moon, a blue (Hunter’s) Moon [seen below left], daylight saving time and Saturday celebrations — plus the unprecedented events of this year — Halloween 2020 will truly be one to remember. 

See also Halloween: CDC says no trick-or-treating amid COVID. (“Many traditional Halloween activities can be high-risk for spreading viruses.”) On the other hand, there is also that election coming up three days later. Not to mention the article with the photo at the top of the page:

While the presidential election, economic recession and ongoing coronavirus pandemic have made 2020 a notoriously bad year for many, [James] Worsham has felt personally targeted with his bad luck: A March tornado destroyed his work studio and then the pandemic, as well as an insurance nightmare, forced him to close his business for four months… Yet, despite it all, he has managed to keep up a positive attitude.

On that note, we’ll return to some “tradition.” Like from last year when I posted The Halloween Triduum – 2019. Which led with a news flash: That Halloween isn’t just one day. It’s part of a “Triduum.” It’s one part of the “three days of Hallowe’en.” (Referred to as Allhallowtide. And Triduum is just a fancy Latin word for “three days.”)

 “Hallowe’en” came from the Old English word for “saint,” halig. (All Saints Day, November 1, was originally “All Hallow’s Day.”) Wikipedia noted that this three-day period is a “time to remember the dead. That, includes martyrssaints, and all faithful departed Christians.” The main day of the three is November 1, now “All Saints Day,” previously referred to as Hallowmas

It all started with an old-time belief that evil spirits were most prevalent during the long nights of winter. People back then thought the “barriers between our world and the spirit world” were lowest and most permeable the night of October 31:

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

You can see more about Halloween in that 2019 post. (And links therein, including but not limited to On the THREE days of Hallowe’en, from 2017. and On “All Hallows E’en” – 2016.) They include details of a strange ghostly light called ignis fatuus. (From the Medieval Latin for “foolish fire.”) That is, the “atmospheric ghost light seen by travelers at night, especially over bogs, swamps or marshes. It resembles a flickering lamp and is said to recede if approached:”

Or about the danger of traveling on All Hallows E’en.

If you were out from 11:00 p.m. to midnight, your had to be very careful. If your candle kept burning, that was a good omen. (The person holding the candle would be safe in the upcoming winter “season of darkness.”) But if the candle went out, that was “bad indeed.” (The thought was the candle was blown out by witches…)

But next comes November 1, All Saints Day. It honors “all the saints and martyrs, both known and unknown” who have gone on before us. I.e., special people in the Church. (A saint is defined as one “having an exceptional degree of holiness,” while a martyr is someone “killed because of their testimony of Jesus.”) Which leads to one prayer from an All Saint’s link:

Almighty God, who by your Holy Spirit have made us one with your saints in heaven and on earth: Grant that in our earthly pilgrimage we may always be supported by this fellowship of love and prayer, and know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness…

On the other hand, November 2 – All Souls’ Day – honors “all faithful Christians … unknown in the wider fellowship of the church, especially family members and friends.’”  In other words, the rest of us poor schmucks. (Those who will die but likely not be remembered, much.)

That is, that third day of the Halloween Triduum – November 2 – is All Souls’ Day.  The original idea was to remember the souls of “the dear departed,” illustrated by the painting below. Observing Christians typically remember deceased relatives on the day, and – in many churches – the following Sunday service includes a memorial for all who died in the past year.

All of which makes the Good News of Halloween. (I.e., we “know ourselves to be surrounded by their witness,” the witness of the departed.) Accordingly, here’s wishing you:

A Happy “All Hallow’s E’en!”

*   *   *   *

In two months we’ll say “Goodbye” to 2020. And probably “Good riddance!

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Halloween 2020 – Image Results. The image accompanies an article, posted on October 24, “Man thinks of ‘the scariest thing’ for his Halloween 2020 decor.” Which led to an article about the “blue moon:”

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

The lower image is courtesy of All Souls’ Day – WikipediaThe caption: “All Souls’ Day by William Bouguereau.”  See also Allhallowtide, and All Saints’ Day – Wikipedia. My original caption, from Triduum – 2019, was “The ‘Three Days of Halloween‘ end November 2, with All Souls’ Day.”

Jonah: “Ain’t about no stinkin’ whale!”

The “attention getter” – in the Book of Jonah that got in the way of the real message…

*   *   *   *

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

In the meantime:

Here’s a short version. The Book of Jonah “ain’t about no stinkin’ whale!” The Moral of the Story is that God loves everyone. (“Even – gasp – liberals?”) In other words, it’s about how God’s love is universal. Or to repeat the lesson of John 6:37, God will accept anyone. (Who turns to Him…)

I mention this because starting last Tuesday – October 13, 2020 – the Daily Office Old Testament readings came from the Book of Jonah. (The readings ended – appropriately – three days later on Thursday, October 15.) Briefly, the book “tells of a Hebrew prophet named Jonah … sent by God to prophesy the destruction of Nineveh but tries to escape the divine mission.”

Which leads to the whale.

As noted in previous posts, the real message of Jonah is this:  “God’s love is universal… It ain’t about no ^%$## whale!!!” I wrote that in the January 2015 post, Jonah and the bra-burners. The “bra burner” part referred to the 1968 Miss America protest. That’s where some feminist protesters allegedly “burned their bras” as a way of getting attention for their cause. But see also Feminism Has a Bra-Burning Myth Problem:

The way we remember the Miss America Pageant protest in 1968 in Atlantic City, New Jersey is a good example.* There is no statue on the Atlantic City Boardwalk to commemorate an important protest about standards of beauty for women and a contest tied into capitalism, war, and race.  Instead, our cultural touchstone from that day is the negative and trite association of feminists as “bra-burners.”

In other words, before the event one of the organizers thought that such a form of protest “might be a good way to launch the movement into the public consciousness.” The effort succeeded, but the success turned out to be a “blessing and a curse.” 

First, organizers asked police officials for a permit to burn such items as bras – and also girdles, cookware and Playboy magazines. City officials refused the request, so the protesters threw the offending items into a garbage can. But a New York Post report “included a reference to bra burning as a way to link the movement to war protesters burning draft cards.” As one organizer later noted, “The media picked up on the bra part.” (That darned Liberal Media!)

Which is pretty much what happened to the story of Jonah:

My point was that the “attention-getter” in Jonah – the whale – got in the way of the real message. So the Book of Jonah was just like the “bra-burners” at the 1968 Miss America pageant, where that real message got lost too.  The real message of Jonah is:  God’s love is universal…   (It ain’t about no ^%$## whale!!!)

That’s the problem with an attention-getter. Like burning bras, or using a whale as a minor but memorable detail in a parable. Sometimes the attention-getter gets in the way of the real message. In the case of the Book of Jonah, ever since it came out too many Bible-readers have “picked up on the whale part.” And ended up ignoring the real message behind the book. 

The real message came in Jonah 4:11, after Jonah finally did what God wanted: Go to Nineveh and “prophesy its destruction.” It was the capital of the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Israel’s long-time arch-enemy and greatest tormenter. So Jonah went and proclaimed God’s message, but to his dismay, city residents from the king on down “repented their sins.”

And as a result of that, God repented of His plan to destroy the city.

Which made Jonah very angry, “angry enough to die.” He left the city and watched from afar, hoping God would still destroy it. But he got even madder, “enough to die.” Not only did God not destroy Nineveh; He killed a plant that shaded Jonah from fierce sun and burning wind.

That’s when God chastised him, saying, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly. And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” On which note see also Was “Abraham” a pimp?

In that post I pointed out the error of reading the Bible too literally. That’s because the Bible is about real people, facing real problems, not a bunch of superheroes who are so much better than us. Like Abraham, who “was not some ‘goody two-shoes’ bent on preserving his ‘virtue.’” And notice how God changed the names of both Abraham (Abram) and his wife Sarah (Sarai). The point of that metaphor is that “with a true Christian – a real Christian, not a too-conservative ‘Pharisee’ – God changes people.” 

It’s all about change, and being transformed. And you won’t be able to go through that “life-changing” – like Jacob into Israel – if you’re too conservative. In Jonah’s case he was not only “conservative” but also pretty vindictive. (Like most of us are from time to time.) Or maybe he was just an example of “there are none so blind as those who will not see.”

In the meantime, go ahead and “preach to the Ninevites.” They might just listen…

*   *   *   *

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy Wikipedia on the Book of Jonah, as is the lower image. The upper caption: “‘Jonah and the Whale’ (1621) by Pieter Lastman.”

The full readings for Tuesday, October 13, were: Psalm 5, 6; and Psalm 10, 11, Jonah 1:1-17aActs 26:24-27:8; and Luke 8:40-56. The readings from Jonah, from the following Wednesday and Thursday, were Jonah 1:17-2:10 and Jonah 3:1-4:11.

The “stinking whale” quote came from Was “Abraham” a pimp? In that January 2019 post I paraphrased the point of Jonah and the bra-burners.

The “good example” part referred to “our conflicted feelings about women as major players in American history.” The full sentence in the Myth Problem article: “I think our failure to honor the movement is rooted in our conflicted feelings about women as major players in American history.”

An unintended consequence – and ‘Victory O Lord!’

Hey, if you think I’m strange, Google the Battle of Refidim – where Moses (at center) may have been the first “sport fan” to say, “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work…”

*   *   *   *

“My” Tampa Bay Lightning just won the Stanley Cup, and I feel vindicatedFinally!

Not to mention, “Blessed by God,” or at least, “Back in God’s good graces.” That is, last May I posted “As a spiritual exercise.” In it I described a system of ritual purification that I’ve followed since 1989, as a way of helping my favorite college team win. It began with some experimental ways to “help” Florida State University win its first football national championship.

In the spring of 1992 I added Daily Bible Reading, with this result:

And just as an aside, during that next football season – in the fall of 1993, and after much drama, with twists and turns of fate – the Noles squeaked by Nebraska to win that first national title. (In a game they were expected to win easily.)

“My” FSU football team went on to win two more national championships (in 1999 and 2013). They also established the Florida State football dynasty: 14 consecutive Top 4 finishes, a feat no other team has been able to match. But lately, FSU football has fallen on hard times…

They’ve suffered through back-to-back losing seasons – 2018 and 2019 – for the first time since 1976. (Bobby Bowden’s first year as head coach.) And a lousy start to the 2020 season as well… Of course I have my theories, like maybe God wanted me to ease up on my hours of the stair-stepping, with a 30-pound weight vest and 10 pounds of ankle weights? (After all, I am 69 years old, and that’s a lot of wear and tear on the knees, ankles and other vulnerable joints.)

But that’s a subject for a post I’ll do later…

Meanwhile, on a personal level I have been doing quite well. (Including lots of overseas travel and other adventures, at least before the COVID hit.) Then too, there have been successes for my “other favorite teams” – and coaches – as listed in “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth, from June 2018, and On my “mission from God,” from February 2019…

*   *   *   *

There’s more on that later, but first a word about the Battle of Refidim. (Or “Rephidim” in some spellings.) You can read about it at Exodus, Chapter 17, and notably verses 10-12.

3,500 years ago the Amalekites launched a sneak attack – like Pearl Harbor – on the Children of Israel in their Exodus from Egypt. (They’d just arrived at Rephidim near Mount Sinai.) While Joshua led the army, Moses and two buddies went up to the top of a hill to watch:

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 noted earlier, that sounds a lot like a modern-day sport fan, watching his team on TV. Sometimes moving around the room, sometimes standing, sometimes sitting. Other times he’ll mute the sound, or tell his wife to leave the room – because she may be jinxing his team!

Or in the case of Moses, his “team” started winning when he held his arms up, but they started losing when he let his arms down. Which again raises the question: Was Moses the first sport-fan to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

*   *   *   *

That’s pretty much what I’ve been doing since 1989, trying to find those “things that work.” But lately those things haven’t gone so well. At least not for the FSU football team…

As noted in 2018’s “Unintended consequences” there have been some “collateral wins” for some of my other teams. (Adopted or otherwise.) The FSU ladies won their first Women’s College World Series in June 2018. And of course the Tampa Bay Lightning had won their first Stanley Cup, but that was way back in 2004. So aside from the Lady ‘Noles in 2018, the last one of “my teams” to win a major championship was the Atlanta United football club, which captured its first MLS Cup in December 2018. (I moved to the Atlanta area back in 2010, so I “adopted” the Braves, Falcons and Atlanta United, as those among the teams I perform my ritual sacrifice for.)

And by the way, since that December 2018 I’ve proudly worn a “bad-ass black” Atlanta United ball cap. Including but not limited to my overseas travels. That included my trip to Israel back in May 2019, where I wore a Shemagh – from Ranger Joe’s at Fort Benning – on top of my “United” ball cap. (It “combined the best of the old and the new,” and also gave a visor that helped shield my eyes from the intense Eastern Mediterranean sun.)

But we digress… The point is that it’s been a long time since one of “my teams” won a major championship. And as I’ve mentioned, the FSU football team has really gone downhill. As a result I was starting to despair. I repeatedly asked God – metaphorically or otherwise – “What am I doing wrong? Why are you doing this to me and my teams?” Which is probably the same kind of questions the ancient Children of Israel asked when things went so wrong for them. (When you’re dealing with God, it seems that’s your first tendency, to blame yourself.)

Then came the night of Monday, September 28, 2020…

But first came the night of Saturday, September 26. I hadn’t been paying any attention to the Lightning, but on a whim I checked out “NHL scores.” Much to my surprise, they seemed to be on the way to this year’s Stanley Cup finals. That Saturday night I learned that they led the Dallas Stars three games to one. I started keeping track of that fourth game – tied at two all at the time – but later found out they lost 3-2 in double overtime.

For the life of me I could have sworn these were the semi-finals, and that if the Lightning won that fourth game they’d get into the finals. I was wrong, as I found out that next Monday night. Late in the evening I checked their website and found out they’d won that fourth game, and with it their second Stanley Cup. And all the while – that blessed Monday night – I paid no attention, not keeping track, not worrying about their progress…

Then I wondered if this was not unlike what the Zen master said in Zen in the Art of Archery. That rather than “aiming” your bow, you should wait until “it shoots.” Or, “Don’t think of what you have to do, don’t consider how to carry it out! The shot will only go smoothly when it takes the archer himself by surprise.” (See Quotes From Zen in the Art of Archery.)

In other words, I didn’t pay much attention to the Lightning these past few months, and they won their second Stanley Cup. I didn’t pay much attention to the FSU women’s softball team in 2018, and they won their first College World Series. And I didn’t pay much attention to the FSU women’s soccer team in 2018, and they went on to win their first National Championship.

But what I did pay attention to – what I’ve continued doing, lo these many years – is keep on practicing the discipline of “ritual sacrifice.” (As I once wrote, “God answers our prayers, but often not in the way we expect.” Or words to that effect. Thus the Unintended consequences” post.)

But we’re ranging way too far afield. I may explore these esoteric ideas later, but for now here’s the point: For the first time in the last two years, I don’t feel totally lost in my ritual sacrifice. For the first time in a long time I feel vindicated, and that maybe all this exercise and Bible-reading hasn’t been a waste of time. (Not that I’d think that anyway. “The Reward is in the Discipline.”)

For now it’s enough to celebrate “my” Tampa Bay Lightning winning its second Stanley Cup. And feeling vindicated, finally! And enjoying the feeling of being “blessed by God,” or at least “back in God’s good graces.” Now, if I could just get that FSU football team back on track…

*   *   *   *

Captain Steven Stamkos lifts the Stanley Cup Monday night, September 28, capping the Lightning’s “comeback season after being swept in the first round last year.”  

*   *   *   *

The upper image is courtesy of Battle of Refidim – Wikipedia. The caption: “John Everett Millais, ‘Victory O Lord!‘ (1871).”

The full credit for the lead sentence is: Tampa Bay Lightning wins Stanley Cup – NBC2 News. See also Tampa Bay Lightning Win Stanley Cup in Pandemic Bubble, and for a kicker (so to speak), Tom Brady congratulates Tampa Bay Lightning on Stanley Cup.

Re: Battle of Refidim post. In October 2015 I posted – in a companion blog – Was Moses the first to say “it’s only weird if it doesn’t work?”

I borrowed the photo to the left of the paragraph – beginning “Meanwhile, on a personal level” – from the post, “Unintended consequences” – and the search for Truth. My caption: The FSU Women’s first CWS title:  A recent example of the Law of unintended Consequences?

Re: The FSU football dynasty. The reference is to If Florida State in the 1990s isn’t a dynasty, then what is? Another headline: “The case for FSU’s dynasty.” The major listed accomplishment: “Fourteen consecutive top-five finishes,” which should read 14 consecutive Top-Four finishes. In one of the 14 seasons the AP had FSU Number 5, while the Coaches Poll had them ranked Number 4.

I was going to say the lower image is courtesy of Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup – Image Results. (Note the similar “arms up.”) An article accompanied the photo, which led me to the original story, “How social media reacted after the Tampa Bay Lightning lifted the Stanley Cup,” from | The Star | Canada’s largest daily.