Sparks Near Inferno’s Gate

By the time you read this it’ll be Thursday. It’s Wednesday headed toward Thursday fast, and I am trying to exercise a way to write just to write something. For those of you who might anticipate a high level of quality writing here, bless your hearts for still holding out hope…

Because, what’s the sign say over the gate to hell in Dante’s Inferno? Come on, you know this one. … No?

“Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate.” The most popular translation is “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.”

The journey begins and to me it often looks like this:

I heard a preacher on the radio, I know that’s kind of old fashioned but sometimes I’ll hear something that’ll spark my brain in some way. Well, spark it did. I understand that everyone who reads the Bible is going to come away with something different: a specific understanding, a mystery to explore further, an interesting topic, complete confusion, and so on.

It’s Christmas, but I can’t feel it.  Not now.  I feel like Santa left sadness, disappointment, darkness, worry, rage, loneliness, pain, and helplessness behind, along with reindeer shit, in my stocking. Where are you, Christmas? Whoever wrote this song found something they celebrated at the end of the song; I’m stuck between beginning and middle:

If your reaction, to reading or to life, is complete confusion, I’m right there with you, and also I’m sorry to say that my recommendation is to read more. And so it is that with Sunday’s confusing events, and the hated translation, I hoped was butchered, I have checked the Greek. What can I say, I just have weird things that push my buttons. I went to my standard resources, and read and reread. There’s a little word tacked on at the end of Luke 2:14 in the Greek. Doggone it if there is no comma, nothing exact to explain the exact implication. It just says “eudokia.” This is one place where I think King Jim’s translators got it right, though. If there’s a comma implied, it’s SO much better for me.

Curious? Go ahead: http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/Greek_Index.htm ; dive in. Would I steer you wrong? It’s FASCINATING, really. Next stop on the rabbit trail? I went here: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=g2107.

In my study, I do not see any indication that “eudokia,” “good will” is conditional and implies the requirement of God’s delight in order for Him to bequeath the promise of peace. So, though the language in the translation sometimes used implies it, the original language carries no such baggage. Thank God for that. So say whatever you feel like saying, translators who want to attach boat anchors and 16 ton weights to God’s grace. People seem to delight in doing that. Like this:

You want to get into heaven? OK, work for it. Work hard and maybe you’ll earn God’s favor.

Um… How do I know if I did enough good? And …that doesn’t answer the awkwardness of the bad things still on my conscience, so how can I trust that?

I don’t think it works that way. I believe there are no such boat anchors, because of several internal reference points in the same document. You could go back to John 3:16, which starts on the foundation that God loves the world and wants to save us. You could go to Galatians 2:16 or 3:10, which pretty much close the door on us ever measuring up to any kind of approval from God by our own good work. Or Ephesians 2:9-10, which are even more clear. Or Titus 3:3-8, which interestingly enough, makes the point to call out lazy Christ-followers who say, “OK, I’ve accepted God’s grace on my faith. I believe it, so I’m all good,” and they sit and wait for the end and don’t help anyone. There’s a thread though which says it’s not our works that save us, or restore us, or bring us into any kind of relationship with God.

There’s a point to all of this, and I’ll get back to it. It has to do with this preacher guy on the radio, and he went all the way back to Genesis with something that bugged me a little. I mean, I’ve said (above) that there are as many interpretations or understandings as there are people, so maybe the guy’s entitled to his thought process. He was talking about Christmas, and how God came to Earth “in the flesh,” or “incarnate,” which is a big word that means “in the flesh.” What he was trying to get at was that Jesus, the baby who grew to become a man, came as God’s gift of John 3:16 -“God so loved the world that he gave…” Jesus was protected into adulthood, until everything was ready and he was prepared to pay for all the bad things I ever did. OK, yeah, all the bad things you ever did too. Despite all of the attempts made on his ancestors’ lives and on his own, and if you read the story you’ll see those. If Jesus’ ancestors knew about it, they’d have been scared to death for their own lives. But it happened, and Jesus was born, and lived until he was ready and until the time was right. He had to wait until Israel was under Rome’s thumb, so the message could be shared with the whole world. If it was just Israel, they would have just done this:

Under just Israel’s law, no Roman or anyone else in the world would ever know what happened except Israel. But under Roman rule, the message would be visible to Rome and to Israel, and to the world. Under just Israel’s authority, the stars themselves would make less sense.

Rabbit trail #2: The sign for Israel is Pisces, the 2 fishes. (See also Mark 6:41?) The sign for Gentiles (the rest of us), is Taurus, the bull. Right between the two, hard to see hanging up there, is Aries, a ram. (See also Genesis 3:21, Genesis 22, very importantly John 1:29, and also, like a button on the end of a great piece of music, Revelation 5, and there are more, I’ll get to one or two if you can stay with me.) The Bible is a tightly woven tapestry.

This preacher on his radio show, though, said that when Jesus came to earth as a baby, it was the first time He had been in human likeness, or “in the flesh.” But the more I read it the more I wonder if God was showing us how He was going to try to save us, all along. This preacher said that when God walked in the Garden of Eden in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8) he was not in human form. You remember Genesis 3, it’s where Adam and Eve screwed up, disobeyed God and fell, along with all their descendents including me, and took all of creation on a ripping rollercoaster ride, a twisting, screaming journey to hell in a handbasket. Try to deny it all you want, and then turn on the news. For some, the journey seems short, but on a cosmic scale it’s taking longer than 8,000 years, presuming a young earth, but that’s another can of worms and I am NOT touching it. I won’t go back. But this message, this implication, it bugged me, because the guy has no way of knowing that, and no way to back the statement up. This preacher wasn’t in the Garden with God back in Genesis 3. My Genesis 1:26 isn’t at all unclear: “Let us make humans in our image, in our likeness…”

What I’m saying is not that this preacher was necessarily wrong, or intentionally saying something to mislead. What I’m saying is we all have to dig in to the Bible for ourselves to find our own treasures. It’s important that each of us do that. My assertion is that if we ARE in the likeness of God, “in [His] image, then He must be, in highest form, the pre-image of humans.

To the point, here’s one treasure I take from my digging:

What if God was enabling the restoration of the relationship broken by Adam and Eve as the slain lamb in Genesis 3:21?

What if God was restoring the relationship broken by Abraham, as the slain lamb in Genesis 22?

What if God was enabling the restoration of His relationship with Israel through the symbols of Exodus 12?

What if God promised the possibility of restoration in Isaiah 53 (see the Lamb there in verse 7?), written 2716 or so years ago? And finally,

What if God was offering, if we believe, to restore the whole world, as the Lamb of John 1:29, sacrificed at Passover in John 19, and raised in John 20?

You don’t have to ask yourselves these questions, but I raise them for your consideration.

John wrote in maybe A.D. 90 or so, which puts it at 1926 years or less ago, and the events of John would have taken place maybe 800 years AFTER the prophecy of Isaiah 53. If you’ve followed me down the rabbit trails this far, just read the last few verses of John 20 (verses   29-31). 31 is important. How did Isaiah know 800 years early?

Because if God did that, who am I to say whether He pushed my sorry ass into this pit of despair for some restorative reason? I HATE the pit, but if there’s some value in my being here, then eventually it’ll be fine. I’d really rather not. But I get to hang out with some of you, here in the dark, and you’re pretty cool. Maybe we can walk together a while. Or just sit here, it’s better with your company.  I’m not anything like the Lamb. I just talk about Him, just like John did. I complain WAY too much to compare myself to Him. He is, if you don’t already know, “…One you do not know. He is the One who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:26-27) He can restore, or establish, a relationship with us, if I’ve read this right. I wish there were, but there’s no promise of any circumstantial changes. Only eternal changes. All it takes is our faith. I still have to walk through this shit for now, but eternally, I’ll be eternally better off than now. I feel abandoned, not that I’m nearly important enough to matter. But Jesus himself felt the same: “Eloi! Eloi! Lama Sabachthani?” (Psalm 22:1, see also Matthew 27:46; and, how did David know a thousand years early how that scene would play out?) It wasn’t just words to Jesus. It was agony far worse than I may ever know.

What if God pushed me into this pit of despair, or let the universe fucker push me, or let me fall all by myself, to encourage JUST ONE of my readers, to let me meet you, to reassure you of your beauty and incredible worth, to assert that God loves you in ways far more pure and complete and unimaginable than I am capable? To encourage you to have courage, and faith? Although I hate the test, although I hate the universe fucker for the whole journey, if you get it, you’re worth it to me. There are times when I hurt not because it sucks to be me, but because I know what you are going through and I wish I could do something that would effectively reduce your pain or just thoroughly and completely rescue you, but there isn’t anything. I pray for you, and can’t not weep.

Christmas is coming and I haven’t got anything tangibly helpful for you. I have a prayer for me, and may it be answered a thousand billion times, yes. And I have a prayer for you, and may it be answered the same, a loud resounding FUCK, YES!!

Here’s my prayer for me:

OK, I confess, that was a joke. Well, halfway. Because I really do want that for Christmas too. But here’s my real Christmas wish for me:

Here’s my prayer for you, and maybe selfishly I want a little of that for myself too. If it gets answered, the way I want, there will be enough for you to share.

I’m going to go to work when I wake up today, because if I don’t, I’ll think about it and start crying again. This time it’s not just for me. It’s for you too.

It took me a long time, but I think I know why I cried for me on Sunday: It’s because I’m broken. It hurts. And try as I may, I can’t fix it.

And I know why I’m crying for you too: I’m broken that we’re all broken, we live in a world that is killing us, slowly and painfully, and we can’t do anything much about it, except to be there as an encouragement to one another. I hate that you hurt, and I wish life treated us all SO much better.  But while we’re alive, I want us all to share an eternal hope, even if we can’t have peace for now.

Please share that hope with me.

~Deon

Does This Meme Make My Soul Look Fat?

Yeah I just added to it and changed the title and stuff, maybe “Faith and Doubt” suck as teaser titles.  So here’s the same article, tweaked… I’m NOT sorry for teasing you.

So we learned in school, or at home, that oil and water don’t mix.  Oil and vinegar can be shaken together into a lovely dressing, with Italian spices or whatever, but it separates.  I like a balsamic vinaigrette myself.  Damn.  Now I want a salad, with maybe rolled prosciutto and salami slices, some avocado, and those fine sprouts…alfalfa?  And all the vegetables.  And maybe raisins or, even better, blueberries or something.  And a little shredded parmesan, and fresh cracked pepper.  You can have my olives, though, I don’t like those.

Somebody bring me a salad and a glass of dry white wine… make it a Pinot Grigio.  Please?  And an over easy egg on a bacon cheeseburger on a gently toasted bun with everything on it and some onion rings with a horseradish and cayenne pepper mayonnaise.  I know, those two mix with a healthy diet like fire and ice.  Or like my spiritual life thrives on faith and doubt. (Beautiful salad image is from Allrecipes.com, they are awesome.)

Faith and doubt, to me, mix together, not quite as well as oil and water.  Except instead of that great italian seasoning blend that makes the salad dressing taste great, it feels a bit like gritty sandy bitter granules in between the two.  And it’s not even lubricated like both oil and water, it’s just dry and harsh like sandpaper on my soul.

Faith springs from the soul, a gift from God, the knowledge and understanding that you can trust Him.  Faith is encouraged when one’s prayers are obviously heard and answered.  Affirmingly.  Like when you’re dating, or married, your significant other says something and then works to insure whatever they say is so.  “I promise to ______”  And then they do “______,” you know?

Doubt springs from the same soul, the human condition, the creeping fear that you have been abandoned and forgotten by Him.  Doubt is encouraged when one’s prayers are obviously being ignored, or answered negatively.  And it feels like betrayal.  I trusted in Him to take care of me and He let me down, repeatedly.  I trusted in Him to guide me like a Good Shepherd, and He didn’t guide me down a pathway to good pastures, He let me struggle and fail and fall and eat bitterness and dust.

Doubt erodes faith, over time, like sandstorms eat rock.

My Christ-following “friends” tell me to “wait on the Lord,” or “put God first” or “maybe there’s something wrong with your heart” and then leave me thinking there’s something wrong with me.  But I already freely admit the human condition.  There IS something wrong with me:  I’m a sinner, you pious, holier-than-thou jerks.  Where did you come from?  The Book of Job?  Job’s friends kind of sucked.  At least they stayed with him through the suffering I guess.  So, “friends,” why don’t you tell me how I might achieve spiritual perfection, and write that in a book where you can make a few million and help me pay my bills.  Faith only pays the bills when other people hear God prompt them to help, and actually help.  I’ve met exactly ONE of those kinds of Christ followers, and he stepped in with exactly what I needed, and then disappeared like an angel of the Lord.  It happened once.  I never had spoken to him before, I had only prayed and asked God for what I needed.

Lately I’ve only got the kind of “friends” who say the spiritual-ese bullshit that sounds great but is less fulfilling.  Which is why I don’t really retain close “fellowship” with that kind of Christ-follower.  I know the advice is valid, comes out of “truth” but it doesn’t fit.  Plus, shut the hell up, you’re only discouraging me.  You’re only adding to the grit of the experience.

I’m waiting for a few prayer requests to get thoroughly answered, for Satan to get his ass viciously kicked straight back to hell along with a host or two of his Double Bacon Cheeseburger with TWO Grilled Cheese sandwiches used as buns.: demonic followers, and for God to prove to me again that He gives a shit about little Deon.  So according to the pat answer, that’s supposed to make me stronger.  The waiting, I mean.  Except, I don’t feel stronger yet.  But if the mountain in my life moves, then my faith will be reassured.  I’m just a little under pressure with the mountains of doubt and reality crushing my soul’s ass.  Does a soul have an ass?  Wonder if it’s fat and God is just having me diet or something.  I don’t like dieting in physical life and I like it even less if that’s the spiritual life “lesson.”

If the spiritual menu only has spiritual brussels sprouts or overcooked gross spiritual spinach, I’m starving and that shit is nasty. I think I’d like a spiritual salad with some vinaigrette, that fruity dry white wine and the cheeseburger.  I’ll share.  I promise.

(Beautiful cheeseburger is from Pinterest)
Does this meme make my soul look fat?