The Character of God: Entry 6 but really 7

100% Read

Acts—

Was Acts a letter from Paul to Theophilus?  “In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning” (Acts 1:1 NRSV).  Is it even significant here who Paul is writing?

Paul commands people to be witnesses to the ends of the earth in 1:8.  How might one do this?  Is everyone called to missionary work?  Yes, then are we all, at some point, to minister to a completely different culture?  We can witness to those who are different but local.

The apostles devoted themselves to prayer with certain women.  Did they then elevate a woman’s status?  What would it have meant in that culture to have a woman praying with men?  Would they have to be married as conservative evangelical churches promote inter-sex prayer these days?

Do we still prophesy, see visions, and dream dreams or was that only for Paul’s time?

Is it good and beneficial to live communally.  It was a fact in history and not necessarily a mandate for present day conduct.  How then does a 21st century reader internalize such verses?

In a day and age where tolerance is seen as automatic agreement, it is interesting that Scripture refutes that.  Acts 4:12- There is salvation in no one else besides Jesus Christ.  Why then do Christians read such a thing and willingly accept synchronicity?

Acts 4:28—What does it mean that God predestines?  Does this change who he is?  Can a good God create some humans for destruction and hell?  Why would he do such a thing?

Portions of Acts summarize the entire OT.  Is this to refresh their memories?  Wouldn’t Jews have known this?

After Stephen’s stoning, the Christians are all scattered.  Why were all scattered except the apostles?

In 8:16, there were people who had been baptized but not received the Holy Spirit.  This jostles what I have been taught in the church.  What does baptism mean then?  Is it a command from God or merely a symbol that is good to perform?  Do not motives matter here too?  Is it a command after having trusted Jesus?  Why then did the Holy Spirit not come until afterwards?

Acts mentions a few times devout woman.  What does it mean to be a devout woman of God.  Is she permitted to preach at the altar?  To distribute the “host” as Catholics call it?

Priscilla and Damaris—they joined Paul.  What would joining Paul look like?  Would these women have preached?  Philip had 4 unmarried daughters with the gift of prophecy (sermon preaching).  Why then do churches today often forbid women from preaching to men?

1Thess. –

What does it mean to share of oneself?  Paul calls the Thessalonians their crown and joy.  Why?  How would they have earned such a status?  What was lacking in their faith?

Mind your own affairs and don’t get caught up in that which doesn’t concern you.  <—Oh how I need to internalize that truth!  Lord, come quickly to my aid!

If some are not destined for wrath but salvation through Jesus, does that mean there are people who were at one time, or even now, destined for wrath.  How do we reconcile such notions with God’s goodness and kindness?

Galatians-

Does the present evil age extend even into today?  How will humanity know the return of Christ and the completion of the Kingdom of God?

False gospels exist.  Am I buying into some false teachings?  Are you?  How do we know?

James is called the Lord’s brother.  What would this mean?  Spiritual?  Physical?  Do we have evidence if it was physical?  How would this affect Catholic doctrine?

Paul was sent to preach to the Gentiles and Peter to the Jews.  Why then is the church (according to Catholicism) built on Peter?

The purpose of the Law was to reveal our transgressions.  We are not justified by works (as Paul discusses in Romans) but faith without works is dead (James).  How do we marry these ideas?  Do they contain a discrepancy?

Jesus was born of a woman.  Mary was his mother.  What would it mean to be born of a woman?  Would she have been sinful?

The works of the flesh include fornication.  Why was this discussed so ardently in Scripture and yet we approach it so loosely in the present age?  Those who discuss purity, especially for heterosexual purity, are touted as prude or even bigots at times.  Why?

What would a truly Spirit guided life look like in application (principles as found in Gal. 5:22-23 NRSV)?

 

Romans–

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the degrading of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Rom. 1:24-25 NRSV). Why would God give us up to our sensual desires?  Did he not die for us to be free?  Does God create some for evil and then why predestine those he made for evil to be destroyed?  Why create that in the first place?  Am I reasoning through human judgement, yes…How do I reconcile this though?

For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error” (Rom. 1:26-27 NRSV).  Here homosexuality is called an unnatural act and awarded due penalty for erroneous action.  How are our Westernized sensibilities to accept a homosexual but say that the lifestyle is wrong without being called a bigot, hateful, etc.?  Are we to simply accept it?  “They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them” (Rom. 1:32 NRSV).  This is strong language.  What would Paul say about American sensibilities to such acts?  

God’s kindness is meant to lead us to repentance not license to do what we want.  What does authentic repentance look like?

Are good works important to a degree because glory, honor, and peace is given to those who do good?  How do we exercise faith without slipping into a mindset that thinks we can be saved through works?

Christ died once for all (Rom. 8:10).  Can the idea of purgatory be supported with Scriptures like these?  If so, how?  Again, 8:29 discusses predestination.  “You will say to me then, “Why then does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction” (Rom. 9:19-22 NRSV).  Would he predestine some people to be eternally separated from him?  Why?  

Rom. 11:22-God is kind and severe.  What does this mean for a God who is good and holy?

We are to overcome evil with good.  Did God create evil?  Why or why not?

1 Corinthians–

1:11—Chloe’s people.  Was Chloe an overseer of a congregation?  A preacher?

What does it mean to be called by God?

For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?  God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you” (1Cor. 5:12-13 NRSV).  We are to hold accountable those inside the church, not outside.  How do we protect the church from false gospels and teachers properly?  What guards are we to put in place so not to ostracize the outside world needing to come in, but to preserve truth?

What does glorifying God in the body really look like?  What does it mean to destroy our bodies?  Is it nutrition, tattoos, drugs?  Or something deeper, like spiritually?

Lust was a major problem in the Corinthian church and is in the American church.  How do we address issues of sexual immorality in a compassionate way while still preserving truth?

1Cor 7:14—children aren’t holy through their parents are they?  What is the meaning of this text?

Why did the Corinthians even question Paul’s authority as an apostle?

Should we maintain traditions or do they distract us from pursuing faith?

How should Christians today observe Sabbath and partaking in the Lord’s supper?  Full meal?  Required or again getting caught up in traditions?

 

Aside: So many more questions than answers.  God really does challenge.  This is so fragmented.  My mind is so full lately.  Don’t fall for e-mail scams.  Fixing the situation will take up all your brain power…more on that and how to protect yourself later.

 

 

Human Efforts Futile

Red blotches maul her flesh and just below them, a yellowing tint that gives the illusion of jaundice.

Her eyes are sunken, black pits encircling, cradling pupils lost in despair. Hair sits mangled, tangled, heaped sloppily into a bun atop her flaky scalp.

Chapped lips suck the stick, a nose inhaling the stench of smoke.

Musty clothes squeeze her body.

Visceral words spew out of her mouth, shouting curses and insults.

Ravaged with addiction, she denies the need to escape this darkness.

 

Meanwhile, her mother sits idly by.

Black hair grays, lightened by stress.

Mother eases the malady of a wayward child through sips of alcohol and pills.

Promising moderation, she seems to forget these initial patterns are how her daughter’s struggles began too.

So it shall be when stress is relieved by human endeavors.

Christ tests to draw his loved ones near;

to see if idols will tempt and allure, or if repentance and submission will reign in a heart.

Naught be all else to us, save that thou art!

 

*I want to write a story, but character development and plot lines sometimes fail me.  Poetry has always been an outlet for grief, an avenue that satiated a writer’s passion but suited my short attentions.

**Normally my titles are more creative.  I honestly am so worn down by this week that I couldn’t think of anything better.  A friend died…I grieve and in it, can’t seem to find the right words for a title.

 

The Character of God: Entry 5

Entry 5:

I am quite glad that I decided to upload all my journal entries for class onto wordpress.  My hard drive crashed at work.  All my work has been lost.  This means all my pictures, documents, and spreadsheets were gone.  I had been working on organizing my budget since January using Excel.  Every item was color coded to the expenditure.  Each tab was a month, from January until present.  Needless to say, I was devastated that countless time had just been erased.  My disdain for technology increased.  Thankfully, God prompted, through the Holy Spirit I am sure, me to upload all my journal class work to here.  Since we don’t have to submit this until the end of the course, I would have cried and wailed had all this work been lost.  Anyways, proceeding on.  This story was probably unnecessary.

 

100% Read (All of Mark, Matt. 1:18-2:15; 5-7; 24-25; 28, Lk. 1:1-56; 2:1-38; 4:14-44; 15; 17:20-21; 22:1-30; 24, Jn. 1; 3:1-21; 4:1-42; 14-15; 18:28-19:42)

The twelve apostles were dedicated men that followed Jesus.  It is frequently taught that the apostles were unwed men fully devoted to God.  However, Mk. 1:30 reads “Now, Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever…”(NRSV).  In chronicling his relationships, Scripture tells readers that the apostles were men with families, wives and possibly children.  This was a stark revelation considering church doesn’t often remark on the apostles actually having families.

Jesus heals Simon’s mother-in-law.  This healing is one of several.  Jesus often didn’t want news of himself spread and prayed in solitary places.  Why would Jesus not want his miracles talked about?  How are we to treat miracles today?  How are we to observe festivals and the Sabbath?  Pharisees rebuked Jesus and his disciples for plucking heads of grain.  Jesus responded, “‘Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions'” (Mk. 2:25-26 NRSV).  Reading this, what are modern Christians to make of festival and rest observances?

It is difficult to know sometimes. “With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples” (Mk. 4:33-34 NRSV).  Since Jesus only spoke in parables then, is that what he does today?  How are we to understand Christ’s guidance from this?  

Is it important to even understand the guidance or simply to know who can be saved and how?  Scripture seems to be clear in that regard.  “They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible'” (Mk. 10:26-27 NRSV).  It is only through God that we are saved.  Are our debates over details all for naught then?  How should we address problems today if it is impossible for man to do anything which might actually please God and permit us to heaven?  We know Christ saves though, not we ourselves.  

God has the power to save and to curse.  He cursed a fig tree. Why?  What purpose did rebuking the tree serve?  Was it Christ’s frustration and anger?  Is that emotion allowed and not considered sin?

Jesus died to atone for sin.  “While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God'” (Mk. 14:22-25 NRSV).  For congregations that believe the elements of communion are the blood and body of Jesus, what would it mean when Jesus says he won’t drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.  Does he drink of himself?  Are we to understand this in light of Deuteronomy which says not to drink the blood of the animal for that is where the life is?  

Matthew:

 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus” (Matt. 1:25 NRSV).  Does this mean that Joseph and Mary did, at one point, have relations?  What would this mean for Mary’s perpetual virginity in Catholicism?  What about her being regarded as conceived without sin?

The wise men gifted Jesus with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  Is this a foreshadowing of the crucifixion?  Would this have been prophecy?  Does prophecy exist today?

Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled to Egypt while Herod was ruling and then came out, reflective of when the Jews made the Exodus with Moses.  God alone frees his people from bondage.

Matthew uses the term kingdom of heaven because he was speaking to a Jewish audience.  The other synoptic gospels had Gentile audiences so kingdom of God was used.

Jesus did say that in the way the prophets were persecuted, followers of Christ would be persecuted.  What are we to make of suffering?  Jesus fulfills the law and prophets.  What does this mean?  How is it to be applied?  What does adherence to the ten commandments look like since Jesus has fulfilled the law?

In Matt. 24:3, Jesus discusses the present age and the age to come.  When will we know that the age to come has actually arrived.  Are we to know? Jesus assures us that he is with us to the end of the age in Matt. 28:20.  What is the end of the age?  Don’t we live with him in eternity?  Can there be an end of the age then?

Luke:

I never noticed that the book was written to a particular individual, Theophilus.

What does the spirit and power of Elijah mean?  Why did many think that John the Baptist or Jesus would have been Elijah?  Elijah wasn’t the Messiah, correct?  Why such an emphasis on him and his potential resurrection then?

Mary is referred to as the favored one in Luke’s gospel.  What are the implications of such a remark.

One of Jesus’ names is Son of the Most High.  Recounting the names of Jesus provides peace and assurance that is weathers all storms with his people.

History: Governor of Syria and Emperor Augustus.  With historical facts we know have come to pass included in the stories, why is Scripture still denied by skeptics?  Isn’t there archaeological evidence for faith?  That is unique to Christianity, no?

Joseph was from the family line of David as stated in Lk. 2:4.  Genealogy frequently passed from mother in Jewish tradition.  What is the significance that it was Joseph in Luke’s gospel?

Jesus was circumcised.  However, the apostles teach that the condition of the heart matters more than physical appearance.  What does this mean for Christians today?  Are the men to be circumcised?  Why would we do such a thing to boys and not to girls?

Anna was a prophet from the tribe of Asher who praised God and spoke of the Christ child.  “There was also a prophet, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,  then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped there with fasting and prayer night and day. At that moment she came, and began to praise God and to speak about the child to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk. 2: 36-38 NRSV).  Here is an example of a woman with authority and revelation from God.  This helps to denounce church practices that limit women’s authority, no?

Demons acknowledged Christ’s authority.  Why do humans reject him still then?  Why would Christ want reports of his identity silenced if demons already know who he is and more people are to come to saving faith in Jesus?

Luke also tells of Jesus not eating the Passover until all is fulfilled in kingdom of God coming.   “…for I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes” (Lk. 22: 18 NRSV).  Was the kingdom of God inaugurated with Christ’s death or did it start before then?  Is he speaking of the age to come?

John:

Word of God became flesh and dwelt among us.  Upon his baptism, heaven opened and angels ascended and descended on the Son of Man.  What would this have looked like?

“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him” (Jn. 4:23 NRSV).  What is truth? Pilate asked Jesus this question in Jn. 18:38.

“After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews…” (Jn. 19:38 NRSV).  Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple.  Is this permitted?  What does this mean for the evangelist?  How are we to obey the great commission if secrecy is allowed?

 

These entries are more fragmented than my previous posts.  I found out that we could write the entries in incomplete sentences.  I turned more to a stream of thought composition piece.  Hopefully the meaning and clarity are not lost in this alteration.

The Character of God: Entries 2-4

I’m lagging in the posting.  I did write the journal entries for class, but haven’t gotten around to posting them here for feedback.  I’ve simply posted all of the entries for the past three weeks into one entry on the blog.  Enjoy.

Entry 2: 100% read

When Moses had set out to conquer Canaan, he sent spies.  All of the spies, except two, Caleb and Joshua, were afraid of the surrounding nations.  The spies did not trust God to protect them against the other occupants in the land.  After Moses death, God places Joshua in charge.  It is under Joshua that Canaan is conquered.  God reminds Joshua to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1: 6, 7, 9 NRSV) and to also honor humanity’s agreement to the covenant.

One of the cities to be taken was Jericho.  Rahab, a prostitute, shows kindness to the spies Joshua sent to inspect Jericho.  The hospitality code was an extremely important code of conduct during their time.  Rahab asks for protection, a mutuality of kindness, when the Israelites attack Jericho.  She is granted this protection.

As the Israelites prepare to invade Jericho, they cross the Jordan.  God cuts off the waters of the Arabah Sea, reminiscent of the Red Sea waters being lifted up when the Israelites exited Egypt.  Our God is consistently faithful to take people from bondage and into freedom.  He uses miracles and memories to remind us of his steadfast love and protection.

Sadly, we consistently rebel against God.  We trust that our way and other gods will serve us better.  “Therefore the Israelites are unable to stand before their enemies; they turn their backs to their enemies, because they have become a thing devoted for destruction themselves.  I will be with you no more, unless you destroy the devoted things from among you” (Joshua 7:12 NRSV).  It is difficult to think of our God as one who will destroy his people for a lack of faithfulness.  Christians might find this especially hard because we have been forever pardoned for our sin through Christ.  However, we, myself included, must remember that our God wants uninterrupted fellowship with us.  Much like a marriage covenant, if we breach that contract with adultery, God will leave us.  The covenant is not a license to sin and we must maintain our portion of our agreement.

“…I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you.  For your part, do not make a covenant with the inhabitants of this land; tear down their altars. But you have not obeyed my command.  See what you have done!’” (Judges 2:1-2 NRSV)  God reminds us that when we don’t honor the covenant, there will be consequences.  Our God is holy and we must reverently worship him as such.

During the time of Judges, the Israelites consistently pursued evil.  However, in God’s faithfulness, he delivered them from oppressors.  God also honored people in society that the culture rejected.  Deborah was a female judge.  Together with Barak, they win the battle against Sisera.  Prior to the battle, Deborah tells Barak to go and fight.  He tells her he can’t do it without her.  She tells him that if he does this, that the honor will go to her, a woman, rather than him.  This is an interesting point considering how women are frequently viewed in the church today.  When we look at Scripture, we can see that God places women in authority and grants them honor even when patriarchal societies would deny women respect.

Patriarchal societies can even go so far as to degrade women and abuse them.  In Judges 20, a concubine is raped.  Men came to have sex with the angel who visited the man and his concubine.  Wanting to honor the hospitality code so the men wouldn’t have sex with the angel, the man gave his concubine to be raped.  She winds up dead and her body is cut up and sent to the twelve tribes to remind them that sexual immorality is a sin.  It is a reminder to the tribes that they have adopted the practices of the surrounding nations; practices they were told explicitly not to adopt by God.  However, I struggle with this passage.  The man did not admit his wrongdoing.  Why is the hospitality code a higher standard of proper behavior than a denial of rape and protection of women?  Through this heinous act, Israel unites itself briefly.  Does the wickedness of others justify our response?  Does an evil act justify the end result?  Why does God permit such things?  I’m still baffled.

“‘…Far be it from me; for those who honor me I will honor, and those who despise me shall be treated with contempt’” (1Sam. 2:30 NRSV).  Eli’s sons, heirs to priesthood, did not accept their responsibilities with reverence.  They treated God’s holiness casually.  God says that he will not regard those who hate him with favor.  What do we make of those who are wicked and do well today?  Will we only look to earthly measures?  Sometimes it is difficult to remember the covenant and eternal rewards of devotion to God when we see wickedness prosper in this tangible, physical life.

“Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him” (1Sam. 3:7 NRSV).  Samuel was called in by God in preceding verses.  Can we be called by God before we know him?  What does this mean for goodness and wickedness?  Also, Eli failed to restrain the sins of his sons.  Are we responsible for other people’s wickedness, especially our family’s?  Why?

Samuel, however, was a righteous man.  He was a prophet used by God.  Saul was anointed by Samuel.  Initially, Saul pursued God, but he started to seek evil.  Under Saul, the people started to break the covenant.  God tells us “If you will fear the LORD and serve him and heed his voice and not rebel against the commandment of the LORD, and if both you and the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God, it will be well; but if you will not heed the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the commandment of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you and your king” (1Sam. 12:14-15 NRSV).  We will be punished for disobedience to the covenant.  As a Christian, living under a new covenant, are we still punished?  It isn’t a license to sin.  How are we to pursue righteousness under this new covenant then?

David was a man who, despite his sin, was considered a righteous man.  What characterizes a righteous man?  There are aspects of David’s life that left me curious?  In 1Samuel 18:1, we learn that David was one in Spirit with Jonathan, Saul’s son.  What does it mean to be one in Spirit?  How would it have been understood in that culture compared to today?  When David learns that Saul wants to kill him, Jonathan sends David away.  Before they part, they kissed each other and wept.  How are we to read this text as it would have been for the audience then?  David was married to women, Jonathan’s sister being one of them.  We don’t see text saying David was married or anything with Jonathan.  It was an intimate friendship.  What does that mean through our cultural lens today?

Often in our cultural lens, especially the church, we are told that women are to have men be the spiritual leader of the home.  Abigail was called a beautiful and intelligent woman.  However, Abigail did not inform her husband Nabal about her plans to meet with David and convince him not to harm them.  Would she have been rebuked by our churches today?

Churches have taught that calling on spirits of the dead is part of pagan worship and we are told not to perform such acts.  However in 1Samuel 28:15, Samuel appears to Saul.  Since it was Saul who called on the dead, would this have been an evil act?  Is it important to note who is performing the act?  Is an evil deed dependent on the character of the one doing it?

David, as mentioned previously, was a righteous man.  One of his most grievous offenses was the adulterous act with Bathsheeba and the murder of her husband, Uriah.  God tells David that because of this, the sword will never depart from his house.  Is this why Christians endure persecution to this day?

David’s house most certainly endured the sword.  His sons Absalom and Amnon were at odds for Amnon raping Tamar.  Amnon loved Tamar, but after he raped her, he hated her.  Why do we despise someone when it was our sin that wrecked the relationship?  When David found out about Amnon’s death, he mourned for him.  While it would be nice to assume David mourned over Tamar’s rape, the text does not say this.  How are we to reconcile this?  David was also told to stop mourning for Absalom, who killed Amnon to avenge his sister’s rape.  He was told that if he did not stop mourning than his loyalty to the Israelite people would be questioned.  Will we be called to loyalty to God and his people above our friends and family that pursue foolishness?  When we are, how do we come to peace with such a call?

How do we compare people’s righteousness?  OT violence is often justified by comparing it with the surrounding nations.  Ahaz was a king that did evil, even sacrificing his son to Molech.  Is it presumptuous to assume we are not as bad?  Growing up in a relative truth society, it is hard to think we are humble and good when we say we need to stop idolatry and heinous acts.  Yes, we need to stop murder.  However, am I anymore justified in self-defense than a terrorist?  Do they not think they are acting for their god?  Our society today teaches that each person can have their own god.  Are we to sit idly and accept this, even if it means their god requires things like child sacrifice?

If we practice these acts, can we provoke God enough to be cast from him?  God destroyed Samaria through the Assyrian invasion and exiled his people.  What do we make of that?  God gives chances for repentance.  Kings Hezekiah and Josiah did not do evil in God’s eyes as their predecessors had and the land experienced peace.  Yet, Josiah’s successors Johoiachim and Johoiachin started to pursue evil and led their people to do the same.  In 587BC, Jerusalem fell.  The Southern Kingdom experienced the Babylonian exile.  Where is the threshold of evil?  At what point is God provoked enough to send people away from him?  The anger of God is difficult to comprehend.  In true justice, he can’t overlook sin.  If he does, we will not adhere to the covenant.  Thankfully, even in our sin God is merciful.  He brought the Israelites out of exile.  Today, he delivers us continuously from temptations that ensnare.

Entry 3: 100% read

God in his great mercy brought the people back to the Promised Land.  Zerubbabel leads the people back to rebuild the Temple.  Although rebuilt, it was not the same grandeur as Solomon’s.  Solomon’s choices caused the kingdom to be divided.  God gave the instructions for how the Tabernacle should look.  The scope of its beauty was quite expensive for that day.  Why would God instruct a dwelling place to be built that would force the tribes to become divided?

Zerubbabel builds another Temple but the people who remembered Solomon’s temple were saddened.  “But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy” (Ezra 3: 12 NRSV).  Why was their sadness over the aesthetics of the building?  Does God not deserve a building of beauty?  Is this simply a human desire?  God leads us regardless of the building we meet him in.

After Zerubbabel rebuilt the Temple, Ezra and Nehemiah lead other expeditions that result in the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  They observed the Festival of booths, Passover, and the other Festivals as commanded by God.  Why do we not observe these today?  Are we forsaking parts of the covenant by not observing these festivals?  God always upholds his portion of the covenant.  “Now therefore, our God- the great and mighty and awesome God, keeping covenant and steadfast love…you have been just in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly” (Neh. 9:32-33 NRSV).

When we act wickedly, God will punish us.  He cannot neglect sin.  Punishment is not to be thought of like dictator and subject.  It is more palatable to westernized sensitivities to think of God’s punishment like that of a parent gently correcting a child.  Nehemiah witnesses the merchants selling on the Sabbath day.  He warned them about these practices and said, “…If you do so again, I will lay hands on you” (Neh.  13:21 NRSV).  Is abuse sanctioned by God here?  Nehemiah asks God to look on him with favor in this regard.  It is most likely a misinterpretation of the text to read abuse here.

In Neh. 13:25 though, Nehemiah says, “And I contended with them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair; and I made them take an oath in the name of God…” (NRSV)  Why was Nehemiah not punished for abusing these individuals, regardless of their sin?  Western ideals can’t grasp this as being remotely permissible.  Viewing these texts through a modern lens, there also arises the problem with a denouncing of inter-racial marriage.

During those days, when the Israelites married non-Jews, they started to take their spouses gods as their own.  Ahab married Jezebel and wound up worshipping her god, Baal.  The foreign women caused the Israelite men to sin against God.  God highlights the problem of idolatry and Israel’s adultery by calling Hosea to be a prophet.

Hosea, as a vassal to God, was commanded to marry Gomer, a prostitute.  The imagery of their marriage was used as a tool to highlight Israel’s affairs with other gods.  Hosea keeps chasing Gomer.  They love each other, but she has children with other men and keeps engaging in adulterous relationships, despite how dearly loved she is.  “In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing; Ephraim’s whoredom is there, Israel is defiled” (Hosea 6:10 NRSV).  Israel defiled herself like Gomer defiled herself.  They engaged in extramarital relations.

God is gracious regardless.  He desires “steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hos. 6:6 NRSV).  Even though Israel kept sacrificing to Baal and walking away from God, God healed Israel.  “I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love.  I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks.  I bent down to them and fed them” (Hos. 11:4 NRSV).  God will discipline us for our sins, but he is quick to be compassionate.  He is intimate with his creation, even when his creation forgets who the Creator is.

God adheres to covenant loyalty.  As God promised to give land and multiply the house of Abraham and his heirs, God remembers his covenant in Amos 9:8 “The eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth-except that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob” (NRSV).  God is faithful to maintain his portion of the covenant, even going so far as to plant the house of David and never pluck them from the land he has given them again as is told in Amos 9:15 (NRSV).  Our God reigns forever and ever.  While we sin and experience discipline for that sin, God will draw us to himself and be gracious.  We do not endure the wrath our sins deserve because our God is a God of chesed love.

Entry 4: 100% Read

Those who seek the Lord are wise to do so.  What is wisdom though?  Is there variance in true wisdom?  What some consider folly would God consider wise?  God uses the wise to confound the foolish.  God’s ways are not our ways.  As such, can what appears to be foolish actually be wise?  How will we discern the difference?

Job was a righteous man before God.  However, he becomes tested.  Satan asks God to test the authenticity of Job’s faith.  ‘“But stretch out your hand now, and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face’” (Job 1:11 NRSV).  Why does God permit Satan to do such things?  Is this permission a characteristic of a truly good God?  If God is good, and are consistently reminded that he is, why would he allow such afflictions from Satan?  Does our faith need such testing in order to be proved?  Why does faith need to be proved?  Are we not saved by trust, not works?  Is the testing of trust necessary for admittance to heaven?  Is that coercion then or free will?

Have we ever been wrongly comforted by a friend as Job was?  I know I have.  Sadly, the church has offended believers too.  Too often, church can be like Bildad saying, ‘“See, God will not reject a blameless person, nor take the hand of evildoers’” (Job 8:20 NRSV).  Church, and consequently friends in the church, at times even myself, will counsel people.  They state that if an individual was actively pursuing God, that calamity would not strike.  At times it can feel that way.  Why do the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer through?  Can a person, like a Pharisee, be truly wicked and seemingly prosper?  I know it to be false, but if we increased our faith, would our sufferings lessen?  Bildad seems to be stating that here.  Where is that evidence in life when it feels like the righteous prosper?  Although, how do we know a truly devoted person from a façade?  Is it only through God’s testing that we are proven?  Again, how is that free will in love?

The Psalms are beautiful compositions that wrestle with these very questions.  That is why it is my favorite book in the Bible.  Also, I love writing and poetry so I am instantly drawn to the book.  Although the Psalms authors question God and wrestle with the struggles of life, God is always held reverently, as he should be.  His power and might is acknowledged.  After all, God is the one who created the heavens and the earth.  “The heavens are telling the glory of God’ and the firmament proclaims his handiwork” (Ps. 19: 1 NRSV).  It is good to recognize God as the creator and abide in his covenant.  “…Happy are all who take refuge in him” (Ps. 2:11 NRSV).  He is the God of our salvation and he will come to our aid.  While we can question that, we must acknowledge that God is Lord and he upholds covenantal loyalty.

When humanity commits to the covenant as well, wisdom is gained.  The book of Proverbs contains short teachings that instruct the reader how to gain wisdom for application in this life.    “For learning wisdom and instruction, for understanding words of insight, for gaining instruction in wise dealing, righteousness, justice, and equity;” (Prov. 1:2 NRSV).  Sometimes, the wisdom doesn’t make sense.  Since God is higher than us, his inspiration can be confusing.  “The LORD does not let the righteous go hungry, but he thwarts the craving of the wicked” (Prov. 10: 3).  At times during this life, it feels like the righteous do go hungry and the wicked prosper. Perhaps these verses speak of eternity’s hope when God will reign and his kingdom will appear on earth as it is in heaven.

“Who knows whether the human spirit goes upward and the spirit of animals goes downward to the earth?” (Ecc. 3:21 NRSV).  Humanity’s fate is the same as the animals.  We all will die.  The great equalizer is death.  What is hope then?  Can animals place trust in God and gain entrance to heaven?  This verse from Ecclesiastes says we don’t know.  What is hope then?  Is the pursuit of this knowledge as the author of Ecclesiastes asserts?  Why do we try to search the Scriptures for truth and right living then?  It is good and prudent, but can it also be meaningless as the Ecclesiastes author drones on about?

The imagery in Song of Solomon found in chapter 4 is cultural.  If my husband told me my breasts were like twin gazelles, I would be confused.  Deer pranced and were light-footed.  They searched for water in the desert and leaped to find sustenance.  Since we don’t have that imagery used in our writing today, we don’t understand the literary uses to draw a reader closer to God.  It is a book about sex, used to teach Israel about marital fidelity so they would stop pursuing sexual idols like their neighbors and return to God.  Our current culture is also highly sexualized, albeit in different manners, and the temptations for sex outside of God’s mandates have often led people to abandon God.  Song of Solomon is a relevant text to show people that God’s mandates do a society well to obey.  The text is intense and highlights the abundance available in God alone.

Daniel is apocalyptic literature.  Nebuchadnezzar was the king of Babylon.  He appointed Daniel to his court for the ability to interpret dreams.  Daniel asks that he does not have the diet of the royals.  Even while just eating vegetables, he becomes stronger than the others in the court.  Would it be testing God today if we refrained from eating cultural grub in order to show God as supreme?  How would a diet change today speak to God’s glory?  Can it?  Has our obsession with dieting simply turned into idolatry and we wouldn’t have the same outcome as Daniel?

Daniel’s three friends refuse to bow down to the statues Nebuchadnezzar had set up.  They had to face the fiery furnace as a result.  Thankfully, they were not burned up, but their executioners were.  Is this miracle possible today?  Do we not have enough faith and that is why we haven’t seen something occur on that grandeur?  What statues have I bowed down to because I am a people pleaser?  God sent Nebuchadnezzar out to be like an animal so he would learn that God is the Lord of lords.  How does God send us out from his presence today so that we might remember he is King?  Is it possible for the Christian existing in the post-cross world?  Are only non-Christians ever sent to learn such lessons?

The formatting of 1 Maccabees is unlike other texts in the Protestant cannon.  All of Scripture is inspired.  However, while God’s law is mentioned, he himself isn’t talked about often.  There is history of Jerusalem being besieged and Judas’ fight to prevent desecration of Judah.  “You shall rally around you all who observe the law, and avenge the wrong done to your people” (1Maccabees 2:67 NRSV).  Other canon does not seem to permit avenging death.  The motive seems off.  Understanding all Scripture is inspired and from God, what sense are we to make of books that are held in lesser esteem?  Why include them?  These texts seemed misaligned with the representation of God’s character in other texts.  There was much discussion about Gentile kings in authority and the battles that ensued.  It was a dark and bloody period in history.  God seemed largely silent in the text.  There is some discussion with God, but decisions seemed to be made of their own accord.  Is this why there isn’t much information about the Intertestamental period other than fighting? What does this say about God’s involvement during that period of history?  Is he ever more silent in some eras than others?  Also, did God command then avenging?  I don’t see evidence for it.  If he did, what would that say about God and humanity as vassals for retribution?

 

The Character of God: Journal Entry 1

This summer after a failed attempt to get friends together to study Scripture and world religions, I enrolled to audit a class.  I took this class as a Freshman at Houghton almost ten years ago.  I forgot much of the material.  It is interesting to go back, relearn, but this time, with more time as a Christian and simply more years which has, hopefully, made me more wise.  (Although, not exempt from run-on sentences apparently.)

Part of my assignment includes writing a page or more on a passage of Scripture we are told to reflect on.  There will be eight total.  The first entry is on the Pentateuch.

Gen. 1-12

Every story has a theme.  The Bible isn’t any different.  It so happens that the theme of the Bible is a person, a most glorious and holy person, God.  Starting in Genesis, we witness God creating mankind in his image.  “So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27 NRSV) Since we each bear the image of God, we are to treat each other respectfully.  However, you often read about the mistreatment of neighbors.

Hagar and Ishmael were sent out from Abraham’s bet ab.  Even though Abraham, as the patriarch, was supposed to care for Hagar and her son, he let Sarah decide Hagar’s fate.  Thankfully, God brings Hagar back into the bet ab so she is not forgotten.  We are told though that even though Sarah treated Hagar wickedly, Hagar was to return and submit.  Submission to a harsh ruler flies in defiance of American conduct codes.  It was God who told Hagar to submit.  God even told Hagar that her son, Ishmael, will live at odds with all his kin.  I, like Jacob, wrestle with this, with God’s commands.

Who are Ishmael’s kin?  “His children multiplied and became known under the name of Ishmaelites, or Arabs, the people of the desert” (Isaacs, n/d). Is this why Arabs endure animosity?  Why does he live at odds with them?  In Hagar’s case, are we allowed to defend ourselves when we are being mistreated as Hagar was?  How would a mother feel watching her son be outcast and divided?

Even though Hagar endures these troubles, God’s character must not be forgotten.  It is all too easy to see our circumstances or problems and lose sight of God’s glory.  Hagar calls God El-roi, the God who sees.  God sees our pain and plight.  He knows what we endure.  He is a God of promises to an enduring people.


Last half of Gen. 12-50, Ex, Lev, Num, Deut.

God establishes covenants with his people .  Abram’s name was changed to Abraham because he would become an ancestor to a multitude of nations.  Humans acknowledged this and bound the covenant by agreeing to God’s terms of circumcision.  God sets up covenants with his people and we are to obey.  There are conduct codes.  In the time of Lot, men in Sodom and Gomorrah asked to have sex with the angels visiting.  Lot, in adherence to the hospitality code that existed in that day and was of grave importance, could not let harm come to the angels.  He offers up his daughters to be raped.  When I read this, I am appalled.  How could rape be less significant than hospitality?  Regardless, we see that God protects and doesn’t allow the rape in this case.

Does God ever leave us?  He tells us he doesn’t.  Does he still protect even when we are harmed?  How do we experience blessing in a storm?  We see Esau sell his birthright and subsequently, his blessings.  Why can’t the refusal of a blessing be overturned?  Is this somehow reflective that God’s promises and blessings are not taken back?

God pursues us, but we must do our part.  Esau’s Hittite wives “made life bitter for Isaac and Rebekah” (Gen. 26:35).  They worshiped idols and to God-fearing in-laws, this must have broken Isaac and Rebekah’s heart.  Esau showed he didn’t care if God pursued him, he wanted idols instead.  Does God then leave us to our own devices?  What is the tipping point?

Even in our rebellion, he remains God.  He is El Elhor Israel, or God, the God of Israel.  Just as he promised to multiply Abraham’s line, he would do the same for Isaac, and Jacob (Israel).  In fact, God kept his promise so faithfully that the Egyptians became concerned with the amount of Israelites. “He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and powerful than we'” (Ex. 1: 9).  There is a decree to have all Hebrew boys under two murdered.  God gave compassionate hearts to Shiphrah and Puah, the Midwives, and he protected Moses.  In fact, Moses’ mom becomes his “wet nurse”!

Moses flees to Midian when he kills a man, but still God delivers him.  The Israelites groaned in slavery and God sends Moses to help free them.  Moses does not want to go. God assures Moses though.  “He said, ‘I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain'” (Ex. 3:12 NRSV).  God is a God who walks with us.  He cares about what we are going through.  It is his very nature.  “God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Ex. 3:14 NRSV).  By stating that his name is I AM, God is telling us that who he is: his authority, compassion, and closeness comprises his name.  When we call on his name, we call on his nature.

Our God is a God of relationship.  A relationship, if it is to be beneficial, is mutual.  As a way of expressing God’s desire for our terms of interaction with him, he sets up offerings we are to surrender to him and prohibitions. If we do not maintain these prohibitions we demonstrate our disregard for a rewarding relationship with him.  There are sin offerings and offerings on the Day of Atonement.  These offerings show that we are to be reverent of God.  “ The Lord said to Moses: ‘Tell your brother Aaron not to come just at any time into the sanctuary inside the curtain before the mercy seat that is upon the ark, or he will die; for I appear in the cloud upon the mercy seat’” (Lev. 16:2 NRSV).  God sets up the terms for our worship with him, not the other way around.  He is the Creator and we are his creation.  We must understand this so we don’t usurp his role in our lives.

By observing the Sabbath and the feasts, we also acknowledge that God is the one who sustains us.  We don’t provide for ourselves.  In rest, we draw near to God and realize that he provides everything we need to be sustained in this world.  It is his nature to care for us.

We must trust God that he will care for us though.  In the book of Numbers, we observe Caleb and Joshua as the only spies to report that the land was capable of being conquered.  These men trusted that God would help them defeat men that were seemingly more powerful than they.  The other spies inflicted fear into the people and as such, receiving God’s blessings was delayed.  God was infuriated.  He wanted to destroy people again.  Moses pleads with him.  God in his great compassion is longsuffering.  Since Moses intercedes for the people, God restrains from his anger.  God loves us and simply yearns for us to love him in return.

 Because the Lord your God is a merciful God, he will neither abandon you nor destroy you; he will not forget the covenant with your ancestors that he swore to them” (Deut. 4:31 NRSV).  God himself assures us that he is merciful.  He established a covenant with us and he will uphold it.  In return, it is our righteousness to obey the covenant.  “If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right” (Deut. 6:25 NRSV).

“It was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath that he swore to your ancestors, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  Know therefore that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God who maintains covenant loyalty with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations…” (Deut. 7:8-9 NRSV)  God maintains covenant loyalty because he loves us.  Our personal God has chesed love and endures this life with us.  He is faithful.

 

(This should be entry 1 and 2.  I am up to week 6 as of 8/11/17…I miscounted, sorry.)

The Casket’s Triumphal Worship

When the mouth fills with moistened soil

a body rests, returning to dust.

The soul ascends and bows in awe at the sight of Him enthroned.

There sits a Savior ruling rightly,

finally all is just,

and I find the peace I’ve spent years searching for.

Now I eternally praise the one who made the heavens and earth,

while earth itself decays my physical remains and erases my memory.

So Many Reasons

The newest cult following on Netflix: 13 Reasons Why

A review.  Warning: MAJOR Spoilers

I didn’t want to watch it.  I knew the topic.  Then I went to a book club and heard mixed reviews.  It piqued my curiosity.  Curiosity kills the cat.

As someone who has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, and has several friends who struggle too, I am pleased to know that there is finally a show getting people to talk about a “taboo” subject.  However, the show erred in many ways.  I’ll highlight some positives of the show and then go into the many flaws.

Pros

1.) People are finally speaking about suicide, depression, and mental illness.  Society has often thinks we should silence such issues.  In America, we strive for individuality and dependence on self.  These topics jeopardize self-reliance and ‘success’ through hard work and determination.

2.) The show highlights how women’s bodies are still objectified.

Sadly, I was at a high school graduation party this weekend.  I was in another room nursing my infant daughter.  I could hear the teenage girls and boys discussing another student’s body.  They were saying she was too skinny and it was repulsive.  Repulsive?

In a society that has emphasized diet and exercise to get skinny, because skinny is too often equated with health, that we have girls struggling with the spectrum of eating disorders?  Unfortunately, if a girl was fat, she’d be critiqued for that.  We can’t win.

I know men are critiqued too: If you are too skinny, you are a wuss.  What are you? Weak? Are you crying? Are you a pansy? A woman?  Have you ever noticed that a critique of a man’s body usually compares his lack of muscle female inadequacy?  If a guy doesn’t have muscle, he is told he is weak, womanly.  Why is being a woman thought of as weak?  You see, guys bodies are criticized, but the insults hurled at men comes back to belittling women.  A muscular woman is sometimes called butch.  However, while this is still an insult, strength is still a positive thing.  In American society, physical weakness is very much a flaw.  Feminism is needed when we are still objectifying and belittling women’s bodies.

3.) Rape is discussed.  You see how silence on the topic of rape spirals out of control and damages the individual who was raped and others.

4.) You see how bullying leads to suicide.

5.) The show helped me dust off some past history that I had tucked away.  I didn’t realize I needed to address it.  It helped me uncover some roots to issues in my marriage.   Hopefully I can now begin the necessary, albeit difficult, healing process that entails.

Cons

1.) The show blames others for the act of suicide.  Yes, peers can influence a choice, but a person who commits suicide (or takes part in self-harm at all) is still the one at fault.  It is not somebody else’s choice to slit your wrists.  Murder is different than suicide.

Yes, bullying needs to be addressed.  While bullying can be a catalyst to such a decision, the decision is still the fault of the individual who commits suicide.  Our society often seeks to blame others for the choices we make.  We must take responsibility for our choices.  We can blame society, injustice, oppression, or a slew of other problems for our lot.  However, what we do with our problems reveals our character.  We can bemoan injustice and play the victim or we can have our struggles spur us towards victory, strength, and testimony.

God has placed us in a particular time and location.  He still gave us free will on how we will optimize our talents, shortcomings, and perception of injustice this side of heaven. We can sit and discuss how society is wrong, how we have been abused or belittled, and wallow in pity.  The other choice is to forgive offenses, practice gratitude for what we do have, and live life for the purposes of God.  It is often in our struggles that God can shine.  “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that cross, my interest in this world has been crucified, and the world’s interest in me has also died.” (Gal. 6: 14 NLT)

Aside: Please understand I’m not saying that bullying, oppression, and inequality aren’t problems that need to be rectified.  These problems definitely need to be talked about.  We need to raise awareness and fight for people who sometimes don’t have a voice.  We need to be advocates for orphans and widows, members of society who are often put out and forced into silence.

I’m not saying to stop being an advocate.  I’m not saying to stop fighting for justice.

I am saying we need to stop playing the victim.  Bad things happen to good people.  It sucks.  Rather than reliving what happened and wading (and eventually drowning) in bitterness, regret, and loathing, Forgive. Find freedom in taking responsibility for your part in situations and in releasing others from the chains of a grudge.  The only person a grudge truly holds captive is the one holding it.  We can harbor anger and eventually die in the futility of wrath. Instead, let us find fullness of life in the strength of forgiveness, an identity in Christ, not the constant shifting opinion of humanity.

As it pertains to the show, I think of Clay.  Clay did nothing wrong to Hannah.  In fact, she pushes him away without explaining why she shuts him out. She put him on the tapes.  He asks if he kills Hannah Baker.  He is told that in some way, they all did.

While we can influence people’s choices, an individual’s choice is still their choice.  We are told to keep peace in so far as it depends upon us.  We can’t control how others perceive a particular comment.  If we didn’t mean offense, we shouldn’t have to apologize for how someone perceived offensively.  I apologize too much because I’m always concerned I have offended someone.  In the end, I wind up apologizing for my mere existence and suffer for it.

2.) Hannah stirs up drama.  She tends to think every person’s decision comes back to her.  A wise man once told me that people frequently think far less often about me as I think they do.  People are really self-absorbed.  Yes, self-absorption is a sin and we need to become more other-centered.  As for me, who struggles with approval addiction, it helps knowing that other people aren’t thinking of me as much as I think they are. I probably have their approval when I think they don’t and the opposite probably holds true too.

Zach tells Hannah he likes her.  She thinks it is because of the “hot ass” list and she is supposedly easy.  He tells her it isn’t.  She tells him that isn’t true.  Eventually they say “F-you” to each other.  Since he is popular, she can’t understand how he could have an interest in her.  Her perception of his kindness is severely flawed and he is on the tapes too as having contributed to her death.

Alex put Hannah’s name on the list to make his girlfriend jealous because his girlfriend, whom he loved, wasn’t ready for sex with him.  Rather than talking about it with him, Hannah kills herself and then does a tape about his offenses.  He feels so guilty about how he made Hannah feel and keeps getting bullied himself that he shoots himself in the head.

3.) Hannah talks about how Justin was so wrong for allowing his girlfriend to be raped.  However, Hannah was in the room, hiding, when it happened.  Hannah herself was silent about the rape!  How can she accuse Justin of such ill response when she is guilty herself?  Hannah says she feels guilty for not saying anything, but places the main blame on Justin.

4.) Hannah goes to a party and is raped by Bryce, the same boy who raped her friend.

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do not misunderstand me here.  Under no circumstances should a woman (or man, because men can be raped too) ever be sexually violated!  A girl who is scantily clad is not asking for rape!  A victim should not be blamed for the violent choices of another individual.  Even if someone is completely naked in front of someone else, if they aren’t okay with being touched, they SHOULD NOT be touched.

That being said, we do have to take responsibility for our choices, especially if they can play a role in our injury.  Hannah went to a party with a known rapist and stayed in the hot tub when everyone left and he was nearby.  She was in a place even she said she shouldn’t have been in.  If you know you shouldn’t be somewhere, listen and get out.

5.) Hannah leaves a crime scene to find a phone and report it.  Rather than staying where the stop sign was hit, and this leads to a bigger accident: a friend of theirs is hit by an oncoming car after an alcohol run (he wasn’t drunk) when he “runs” the stop sign.  He dies and everyone is left thinking he died due to drunk driving.  She could have stayed and regulated the scene.  Someone driving by could have a phone and it would have been safer.

Yes, this is a would-have-could have-should have situation. I guess this isn’t so much a con.  Hindsight is hard.

6.)  Why was Tony involved?  You are told he was a friend of Hannah’s, the tapes were left with him, he ran to her house after listening to the first few seconds of the first tape, and subsequently, he witnessed the crime scene.

He blames himself for not having prevented the suicide after hearing the tapes.  Tony was just a friend.  He wasn’t even on the tapes. He comforts Hannah’s mom through the process.

You see a semicolon tattoo on his arm and that can allude to his own struggle with depression.  You find out he is gay.  You find out his ex, who he still talks to, was possessive.  His ex is certainly bullied throughout the show.  You are told that they can’t let Tony let out the secrets.

You can suppose that Tony was bullied for homosexuality too, but the show never highlights that.  They highlight his ex being bullied.

Why Tony? Why?

This plot hole just simply drives me crazy.

7.) While the school counselor said some horrible things, Hannah leaves his office and then waits, expecting him to follow.  Yes, I’ve had arguments with my husband, left a room, and waited to see if he’d follow, to see if he cared.  This is extremely manipulative and vindictive behavior.  I recognize this is a problem.  In this situation, it is the person who waits that winds up at fault, not the person who doesn’t run after.

8.) How are the parents not involved more in their kids lives?  Clay’s mom seems to be the only one who really intercedes.  She is portrayed as an annoyance and helicopter than genuinely caring about what her son does.

Yes, I don’t have teenagers yet.  My kids are still young.  I was one once though.  I know I kept secrets from my parents.  However, I was told I had to be home at particular times, call if I was going to be late, grounded if my grades were poor, etc.  The kids in the show seem like they are allowed to wander freely without repercussions.  This is a problem in and of itself.  Hormonal teens left to their own devices, without advice, discipline, and encouragement, will cause much destruction.  I guess the show was accurate there…

9.)  Hannah had very loving parents and she had a good relationship with them.

Most people who struggle with depression and suicide have estranged parental relationships to some degree.  I’m not saying all, but the vast majority do.  It is RARE to have depression, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts when you have compassionate and loving parents.

10.)  Hannah leaves tapes as warnings to her friends but doesn’t leave any indication to her parents, who she had good report with, as to why she committed suicide.

11.) Home room has notes that are shared.  An eerie anonymous question is asked about suicide in the note just before Hannah commits suicide.  On the tapes, you are told that Zach keeps silent. He might have suspected Hannah’s depression spiraling to the worst, but how did none of the teachers, especially the one who received the note, not pick up on it?

Maybe I’m naive.  I just don’t think everyone is this dense.  This teacher was teaching how to prevent bullying, how to speak with others, etc.  Wouldn’t she have recognized elusive behavior signs?

Hannah cut her hair and started dressing darker and no one is the wiser.  I would think with such drastic changes someone would have noticed, especially an adult.  As I said though, maybe I’m naive.  I knew someone in high school that committed suicide, but I didn’t know him well.  Usually though, there are indicative signs that cause people to question.  Hannah’s parents were involved, unlike Justin’s mom, so you would think they would have suspected something when their daughter stopped confiding in them and became more reclusive.

I don’t know, maybe I’m more naive about this issue than I think I am.  I have struggled, but I know each person’s struggle is different.  I do know that when I’m quieter than normal, people ask why.  Maybe I just have good involved friends.

Hannah had Clay and her parents though.  Other people who would be seemingly more suspect to commit suicide in the show, don’t.  Although I guess sometimes one person handles stress better than another.  You never really know how people will be influenced in their choices.

12.) There aren’t really 13 reasons why she commits suicide.  Justin has two tapes.  The party is segmented, but the main reason is the rape.  One reason, different viewpoints and characters.  The title problem is a minor issue in my mind, but still a slight con.

13.) Bryce has no clue about the tapes.  He isn’t given them.  He finds out about them from Justin.  Bryce has a tape at the very end, but they aren’t given to him.  You don’t find out if Hannah wanted Bryce to find out about the tapes because she made one for him or not.

Again, plot hole that can drive you crazy because it is part of the overarching story line.

13 cons…yeah I stretched them admittedly

To write a critique this long must mean it was more influential than I give it credit for.  You can feel invested in these characters because there is a lot of character development.  I wanted to feel for Hannah.  I did to some degree, but she seems whiner and dramatic than most depressed suicidal people I know.  If Hannah had a mental disorder like borderline personality or bipolar disorder, the mood swings might make sense, but the show doesn’t seem to show this as the case.  Instead, it seems that bullying seems to be the culprit and in that degree, Tyler, Tony, Justin, or many of the other characters seem more likely to commit suicide than Hannah.  Who knows though, each person handles things differently.

This is why we must watch and care.  To that extent, thank you Netflix.  We know we have to look for the signs of weariness, the warning that someone feels death is easier than a life lived for the purposes of God.

(“A life lived for the purposes of God”- A reel I have on replay in my head currently based off a sermon I heard this weekend, but that is a post for another time, if I get around to it.)

Oh and I guess I should have made it a bullet point.  It is a con though.  Throughout the show, everyone keeps saying, “Hannah’s truth isn’t my truth.”  This is a MASSIVE problem in our society.  Truth is not relative.  I hate to break it to you.  Truth is objective, not subjective.  Perceptions of truth can be subjective and relative, but truth itself is just that.  Truth is a fact, not a variable that alters with emotion, maturity, time, or location.  This might be why I love mathematics.  Math just is.

Sadly, even in philosophical and theological spheres we have tried to adapt relative truth.  The problem with relative truth is that it implodes.  Monotheism and polytheism can’t co-exist.  One is true and the other is false.  Jesus said he is the way, the truth, and the life.  He said no one can get to the father except through him.  This means that Jesus is the only way to get to heaven and meet God (the father).  Does this seem exclusive?  Yes.  However, in atheism, I cease to exist entirely.  I am a mere composition of atoms and when I die, I rot, simply to be compost in a spinning world until the universe expands into oblivion.  I can’t profess atheism and Christianity concurrently.  If I do, I have a different dogma than Christianity.

Truth is exclusive.  America is no longer under British rule.  We gained independence in 1776.  My perception of how it came to be or what rule looks like could be different, but truth is truth.  A Declaration of Independence was drafted, can still be found, and that draft occurred in 1776.

Hannah might have correctly perceived or misinterpreted situations, but it isn’t her “truth”.  Truth was the event that happened.  Then truth is left to humanity’s perceptive devices.  Be careful.  Understanding word usage, language, and meaning is of dire importance.  Perception can be deceptive.

Thanks for getting this far.  Watch it if you want, but understand it is VERY graphic.  (You will see the girls getting raped and Hannah cut herself.)  It is hard.  It is a somewhat inaccurate portrayal of mental illness, depression, and suicide.  If it gets people conversing about these topics though, it has served its purpose.  God can use all things for his glory, even a simple Netflix series.

So come, let’s have a conversation.

 

 

 

Cat Cries Charity: People’s Puerile Pity

Many years ago a woman lay sprawled on a table,

legs in stirrups and a sheet draped over her knees.

The blade sliced her gut and the little rebel was pulled forcefully from her womb.

A baby rolling with giggles and blubber toddled through childhood in an eager manner.

Yet in the care of another there was gnashing of teeth and somewhere chemicals leeched.

Then the storms rolled in.

Every day was a battle.

This once joyous babe was at war with the world.

She chased others with daggers when opposition arose.

Only muttering a please or a thank you,

never both in a phrase.

She insisted on going last and uttering no, but was fierce with frustration if questioning her preference was omitted.

Through high school she fell in with the daredevils and fighters.

She hurled curses at those closest to her.

Meanwhile, she linked elbows with fools, manipulators, abusers.

One foul night she gave herself to a boy full of false promises

and that dark hour he robbed just a little more of her innocence.

Gurgling remorse with a bottle of Jack

she snuffed out regret

and blamed loved ones for missteps.

In college she would lay on floors,

passed out from indulgence

and men would grope her.

She claimed assaults but then denied those claims.

Flip-flopping tales and weaving a web of continuous lies.

Surprisingly, one day she capped her head

and took the receipt of her accolades.

Now she could crunch numbers for others

all while squandering away her own.

One day she bled onto a towel

and her grief lay dormant

but friends and family begrudgingly sighed relief.

After that moment and a couple of envious years at one who had followed accepted projections,

she packed a bag

and drove on the dusty road.

Thinking she’d find Nirvana, she set forth to blaze a new destruction.

She made a disturbing vow

and less than a year in

broke it by tangling lips with lies yet again,

somehow believing this would be different,

fresh and anew.

Her body lay ravaged as she gave it so freely,

not recognizing her potential or worth,

regrettably.

Now a beggar with oiled hair from lack of bathing, teeth stained yellow by copious Mountain Dew consumption, she draws breaths on the stick, puffing out billows of smoke

and watches the life she had hoped for dash to the ground as she flicks ashes towards California’s quaking rubble.

 

*Loved ones bow, feverishly praying, questioning how to assist, asking for wisdom when fury abuses. Needing to forgive, but not knowing how, and bestowing compassion that isn’t received or returned makes relatives weary, reluctant.  Oh God, grant insight and a right spirit for all in this inferno.

 

 

A Sloth’s Excuse?

In keeping the motif from yesterday’s musings, I decided to write about why I don’t go to the gym, or rather to chronicle my excuses for not exercising.

Backstory:  I’m a mother.  I work full time.  I nurse an infant.  I chase after a toddler.  My daughters are 16 months apart, a comic masterpiece from God I’m led to believe.  [My sister and I, who’ve had a tumultuous relationship as I can best describe without leaving myself too vulnerable for the judgments of the internet’s space, are 16 months apart. Ah, run-on sentences and fragments, sorry.] My infant night nurses and my toddler frequently has nightmares or simply doesn’t want to be alone.  When my toddler rises at night, finding herself without companionship in her bed, she wanders into our door-less master bedroom and climbs into the warmth and comfort of other slumbering bodies.  Then, of course, I stir and can’t sleep.  I’m inadvertently kicked in the face or shoved to the edge.  I, in sunshine’s stirring, arise, bleary eyed as I trudge through the day.

As part of an idolatrous, self-indulging morning, I peruse Facebook.  I see a constant feed of selfies and meals, frequently at the gym and heaping plates of fad diet-inspired creations.  I judge.  Perhaps this bemoaning is my disdain for dieting due to a checkered childhood history of observing failed dieting and the repercussions negative self-image played in my family.  Maybe there is a slight guilt over my sedentary night practices as I recline and watch one too many episodes of Netflix’s current binges.  While it isn’t always true, there is a very real comment, “that which you are inclined to judge in others is what you hate most in your own life.”

Maybe I don’t like all the pictures of healthy creations because I am ashamed that I lack self-control.  Seeing those reels are an affront to my sin of indulgence and I realize I’m still hoarding this sin rather than surrendering it to God.  I throw myself a pity party.  Parties are fun though, right?

The constant thread of gym attendance from friends jeopardizes my comfort with slothfulness.  I claim fatigue, and while it is true, if I changed my eating behavior [I’m again reminded of those endless recipes plastered on my news feed] and actually worked out, I might find the energy I claim I’m lacking.

I know I need change.  Sadly, my criticisms are shining a light on the reality that I comment and critique because I am not where and what I want to be.  I know I need change.  We can use the excuse that we need to rely on God so we can continue in our apathetic monotony.  Yes, we need God and he is the one who can give us energy when we think we have none, but we must also give action to our voiced prayers.  If we think we need change, pray and start moving.  May I stop criticizing what others post on Facebook.  Rather, may I use it as a catalyst to change behaviors in myself I find lacking or obnoxious.  As I act, may I continually pray because I know permanent change isn’t possible without the power of the Holy Spirit to defeat constant temptation.

Will you help me by holding me accountable?  Where have you noticed you criticized others because gossip and judgment is easier than rectifying your own faults?

Also, I realize my backstory highlights the reasons I’ve used for not going to the gym and not preparing more nutritious meals.  Yet, I also admit that I do think it is absurd to pay for something God has given me freely through creation (like paying for a gym membership and diet designed meal plans), if only I do my part and play in God’s beautiful playground.

 

An Illusion Fad

Forks are laid to rest while fasting takes its grip.

When gnawing resumes,copious meat’s inhaled.

Cars idle as the bags are packed,

stuffed full of towels, sweatsuits, and headbands.

Then in gridlocked traffic,

fists clench wheels

and grumblings ensue.

The metal race begins,

each driver battling for the perfect parking spot

so they can lay claim to the fastest stationed bike

or oiled treadmill.

Paths are forged in a forest,

but in American comfort we rip down trees,

paving the earth

to build facilities rather than utilize the terrain God created for balanced health.

In a society obsessed with organic,

we’ve processed our fitness and meals.

We lift fashioned weights

while wood isn’t chopped for winter’s store,

water isn’t hauled for summer’s reserve,

and soil isn’t turned for spring’s planting or fall’s harvest.

We run in place with buds in our ears,

plastering selfies of gym attendance,

while our children are commissioned out for supervision and supervising

in a plastic filled bubble.

Conversations are wrought with anxiety and fear.

We can’t pay the mortgage

but our membership fees aren’t skipped.

Our Judaeo-Christian based origins were supposed to be radical,

momentum for love, sacrifice, and charity.

Idolatry, like usual, has bested us.

We love ourselves,

posting our achievements in a search for public recognition, fame, and applause.

We sacrifice our time with others to squeeze in personal body sculpting.

We hoard our dividends, fearful we won’t have enough for our own indulgences.

Individuality has resulted in conformity,

each person driven to look the best

rather than feel and change the world for the better.

Men and women walk around stressed.

We think we’re enlightened,

but we’ve snuffed out the light.

We no longer work to sustain daily bread,

but rather toil away for new gadgets and games.

When will we stop burning the wick,

finding rest in some silence?

When will we realize community’s fellowship is in working to put food on the table,

not cash for a convenience purchase,

but the work of dirt under nails?

Finally recognizing the planting and sowing of a supper’s bounty

is from the hands of God who provides

in seasons of drought and precipitation.

Let us stop manufacturing tools to mold the body and

scripting media to form human relationships.

Break bread you have baked from wheat fields personally harvested

and watch muscles bulge from the products of manual labor,

the labor that actually puts roofs over your head, food in your belly, and a fire in the hearth.

 

*Now I realize sin and idolatry can crop up in a return to simplicity too.  I’m just aghast at the number of gyms we have built and the food we’ve stocked on our shelves.

God has given us a vast array of natural paths to meander.  There is also a large supply of wild edibles.  Today, we don’t know how to find food unless it is in appealing packaging and put on a store’s shelf.  I know that processed food has helped to alleviate hunger.  When we are dependent on seasons for crop growth, we can suffer the feeling of an empty belly.  However, maybe we wouldn’t hoard and observe morbid obesity skyrocketing in this country if we were more self-reliant (or truthfully, God-reliant) for our nutritive means.

We are also paying to exercise when we could simply go outside for a jog, build muscles by sowing and reaping food from a garden, carrying and/or playing with our kids, or warming our houses by shoveling pellets or chopping down wood.

We also think that we are far more connected in community through screens, but in reality, we are putting up shields from real and authentic community.  We’re loosing a valuable asset of fellowship:  vulnerability.  Here, in the digital web, we can spin whatever image of ourselves we want, hiding true thought.  So much language is lost when the physical body is removed.  Many conversations go misunderstood by being misconstrued.

I sit baffled.  I’m not faultless by any means.  There is sin in simplicity too.  I recognize the underpinnings of pride as I judge surplus and excess.  The proper balance hasn’t materialized.  To that end, I apologize.  [Anyone who knows me would realize the irony in yet another “sorry”.]

Yet, there is a freedom from minimalism.  Removing clutter, we can be filled with more time for God and authentic relationships.  Appreciating manual labor and simply being active can provide the means for healthy bodies, rather than the imagined health gleaned from controlled environments of exercise.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading.  What have your experiences been?  Do you find it absurd that we deplete our bank accounts to pay for stuff provided for us in nature by God, our Jehovah-Jireh?