Links to my Books

Links to My Writings

Third Daughters at Smashwords
Meditations on Maintenance for the Kindle
Memoirs of a Super Criminal for the Kindle, Nook or Smashwords
One Year in the Mountains for the Kindle, Nook or Smashwords
Adventures of Erkulys & Uryon for the Kindle and Nook

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fiction, non-fiction or ...

We seem to be very dualistic in our thinking. Things are either fiction or non-fiction. Fiction is all that made up stuff that does not relate to any fact in any real way, such as the Hobbit, or Cubism. Non-fiction is all those factual things like science, history or Cubism. Oh wait. I mentioned Cubism twice. Is art a fiction or a non-fiction? I think in our attempt at simplistic, black and white thinking, we are overlooking one other category which is neither fiction nor non-fiction and yet it is both fiction and non-fiction. That is the category of faith.
 
But what is faith? Faith is meaning.

Some fiction is just pure entertainment as it should be. But hidden in that category of fiction are also those pieces which speak to a deeper level, it brings meaning to life and to the heart and mind. Now you are moving into faith. When that deeper level is reached it does not mean the author is a great genius of psychological insights and depth. What it does mean is that the human experience is such that we share vast amounts of feeling, insights and thoughts. By tapping into that shared experience, depth is reached and faith is kept.

Within the realm of fact, or non-fiction, meaning is gleaned not from the accumulation of data and information, but from understanding. Understanding needs to develop into wisdom through application. Now you are moving into faith. When new discoveries force a paradigm shift within the scientific communities do the old theories then become fictions? Certainly they are invalidated but they have not lost their meaning. That was one way of looking at the data set and from it certain conclusions could be deduced, now a new way is needed to look at the data set which may or may not create new conclusions. Meaning is maintained. Faith is kept.

Some works are born in faith which straddles the line between fiction and non-fiction. Any attempt to force them into the category of non-fiction stripes it of meaning and make it irrelevant. And likewise to push it towards fiction is to remove the wisdom and understanding that it contains leaving it empty of value.

For me, the Bible is a book of faith. To attempt to use it as a guidebook to the past for historical studies removes its meaning and makes it an empty book. To chalk it all up to works of fiction erases the insights and meanings which it brings to being human. For me it is not a work of fiction, nor is it a work of non-fiction. Any facts it contains are incidental to its meaning. Any stories it contains are not just moralisms, but speak to real human meaning. It is a work of faith which should bring meaning to one’s life. To read it any other way is to not understand it.

For me Art is a work of faith. I am creating something real in a real place at a real time. All of that data about me, my artistic career, my place in history, etc. can be compiled and biographized and that is not a bad thing, but it is not my art. Art is not a fiction although it is created and holds a special place in my being, and perhaps only my being. But it is not make believe. It is real but not is a scientific, quantifiable way. It is real in the same way an experience is real. Everyone who rides that roller coaster leaves with a different experience. And yet it is a shared experience but not everyone likes it. Art is a faith thing because it transcends fiction and non-fiction into the realm of meaning, of experience.   

Learning to find that place of faith in our dualistic culture is not easy. Religions turn it into theology and legalistic judgments. Politics turns it into an “us vs. them” mentality. Science says “this is the only way it can be.” Faith is meaning and finding that meaning is a personal quest for each person. Some find it in family, some in sports, some in work, some in church, some in… well the list can as varied as the population. The important part is to break the dualistic thinking and realize that faith is not an either/or proposition but a both/and. Faith is that which brings meaning to you regardless if you find it in a movie, a book, a lecture, a community or a political party.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Leviticus and the Founding Fathers of the USA


I hear people say that we, the United States, were a Christian nation but at some point we have moved away from the Christian principles of the founding fathers. I always wonder about the accuracy of that statement.

 

I am reading through the Bible for a class. Right now we are reading Leviticus in the Old Testament, a very dry read. But one passage in particular caught my attention. Leviticus 19: 33-34.

 

“When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.”

 

Wow, that sounds like something Jesus would say. Made me think “what would the founding fathers say?”

I imagine they would say something like, “Yep because we are all aliens here, now if we can only get those damn natives to accept us…” 

 

I think the founding fathers would agree to this biblical ideal and have a very different understand of immigration issue then the ones we have today. I wonder how many Christians are willing to live by this principle of accepting the alien in love and treating them like a native born. Makes one rethink immigration law and such, at least if you are Christian… like the founding fathers…

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Why I support Obamacare


I am a Christian and I support Obamacare, here is why:

When I first heard about Obamacare and the way it was going to “force” everyone to buy insurance. I thought “Hell No! The Government does not have the right to force its citizens to buy anything.” Then I stopped to think about it for a time. The government does not have any rights. Only People hold rights and one of the first rights is the right to one’s health. Governments are only permitted to do what the people allow them to do or are designed to do through their laws with the consent of the people.

 

My first Insight

Health Insurance and health care are not synonymous although they seem to be moving in that direction. At some time in our history Health Insurance became the gateway to health care. Certainly one can access health care through emergency situations, but that access route is usually extremely expensive. But for true health one needs access to routine doctor’s visits, check ups, medicine and tests on non-emergency bases. Without insurance that is cost prohibitive. The gateway to the right of healthcare is closed to many people because insurance companies deny them coverage due to preexisting conditions or drop their coverage because of chronic problems. That does not seem right.

 

My second Insight

Health Insurance companies and many health care providers are for-profit companies. That means they make a profit from your health, or sickness. If your health changes in a way that threatens the profit they will make then they will change or drop your coverage. That is just good business sense. It also seems wrong. The gateway can suddenly be closed in your face because of profit margins, especially when you need it most.

 

My third Insight

If health insurance companies are going to be the gateway to healthcare, then that gateway needs to be open to everyone, it is their right of health. But because of the capitalistic, for-profit nature of health insurance (and healthcare to some extent) then we cannot have a flood a “sick and needy” people draining the coffers of the insurance companies. If the government is going to force the insurance companies to accept everyone and deny no one their right of access to healthcare, then the government need to require everyone to carry health insurance so that the “presently healthy” can off set the cost of the “presently sick.” But remember someday you will be the “sick” and protected from being dropped by your insurance company and somebody else’s “health” will help to pay for your “cost of sickness.”

Of course the other option is for health insurance companies to step away from being the gateway to healthcare. What that would look like or how we would then access healthcare is an open question.

Personal Experience and how it affected my thinking

In the spring of 2007 I had an accident with a power saw and my knee. The emergency knee surgery cost over $10,000 and of course I was uninsured. Why would I be? I was young, healthy and did not have extra money for luxuries like health insurance. I had a few choices to make after the surgery. I could make payments to the hospital and pay the bill or walk away and let the hospital try to come after me financially. I paid the bill (With the help of my lovely wife). Many people decide they cannot afford such unexpected and costly medical bills and walk away, leaving the hospital to pass the cost on to other patients or the state. Walking away only raises the cost for everyone, making it harder for people to access health care.

And of course the next month I found the money to enroll in health insurance.

In the fall of 2011 while on a trip to Wisconsin my three-year-old son needed emergency abdominal surgery. After the surgery and a week in the hospital the bill ran well over $35,000. Thank God we had insurance and the wonderful hospital in Wisconsin was “in network.” The final cost to us was in the thousands instead of tens of thousands. It was an unexpected blow but we were able to handle it.

In the spring of 2012 I became sick. After months of trouble shooting we figured out that my gall bladder had stopped functioning properly. It was dead and needed to be removed. Again, thank God I had insurance.

Not one of these cases did we know about ahead of time and in the midst of it happening if we had tried to get insurance we would have been denied. Thank God that I had the good sense of enrolling in insurance after my first accident or today we would be buried under mountains of medical bills. I am sure that at this point, with our medical history, we are moving away from a “safe bet” in the insurance actuaries to more of a “risk” for the insurance companies to keep us insured.

I noticed that on the bills I received from the hospitals and the insurance claim statements many charges were lowered, dropped or disallowed by the insurance company. That means insurance companies, because of their size are able to broker special deals and fee schedules which the uninsured patient is not. What is the true cost of a gall bladder removal surgery? The amount billed or the amount paid by the insurance company? No one knows, not even the hospital.

I realized that the medical industry is not like the auto mechanic who will give you an estimate that is close to the actual figure and then get approval for any charges that might be way over the estimate. If you have a problem, the hospital may give you ball park figure, but they wont know the full extent of the charges until you are checked out of the hospital. Any estimate they give you holds no meaning. And you have very little recourse to fight back. But insurance companies do and can because they are so massive no little hospital could stand against them.

And that is a good thing and a bad thing. What happens when insurance companies become so large that no one is accountable? What happens to the little guys who are stuck between the hospital and the insurance company? Only some one larger than the insurance companies can stand against the insurance companies to fight for the little guys, and that would be the government, with the consent of the people (the little guys).

Through this I realized that with things the way they are in the health care industry one needs health insurance. But health insurance is not available to everyone. And it should be.

 

 

Tentative Conclusions


Now I have laid all these thoughts out in a very linear order, but it did not occur that way in my thinking. It was much more jumbled and disjointed and took a while to work through. This is where my Christian faith informed me and helped me to see things I would have otherwise pushed against.

For me, Christianity is expressed through helping your neighbor. (Of course there is much more to Christianity than that simple statement, but my theology is not relevant in this case, only my faith in action.) In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) we learn that we are all neighbors to those who are in need, and those in need are our neighbors. Responding to those in need is our Christian duty. With that outlook on life then desiring those around me, friends, family, neighbors to have access to health care makes perfect sense. But it seems the only access they can have is through health insurance. But some of those people are being denied health insurance and therefore being denied health care. It is not neighborly, nor does it sit well with my Christian sensibilities.

And that is why I support Obamacare. It makes me uneasy to be forced to buy a product or service by any government. But I understand the economics behind it. If the healthy people who may not need health care are not paying in to support those who are sick and are drawing against it, then the whole system will collapse. I feel that since it is a product I am already buying then I am willing to be “forced” to buy it to guarantee my neighbors, my friends and my family will have access to it when they need it. I don’t see it as punishment against the people, but rather a way to regulate the insurance companies on behalf of the little guys, the people who need to have their right to health protected. And although the mechanism of the action makes me uncomfortable, the outcome satisfies my Christian mind and soul.

I know there is much fine print in Obamacare, and I may not support that whole thing lock, stock and barrel but I agree with the intent. Now the outcome may not be predicted and I may need to change my mind. But until we can insure adequate heath care for everyone through some other means I am willing to give this a go.


If you want to read the Obamacare Bill for yourself you can find it here 
New York Times Article link from comments 

Monday, November 4, 2013

Truth big T or little t

Science searches for truth through facts (data).

Religion (spirituality) searches for truth through meaning.

The truth of science is not the same as the truth of religion.

Data (facts) does not lead to meaning only knowledge.

Meaning does not lead to knowledge only awareness. 

When awareness is added to knowledge through reflection, intuition and insights then a greater truth is revealed. A truth that neither science nor religion can capture or reveal on its own. To stay firmly rooted in one position as opposed to the other (science vs. religion) is to deny the full truth and to lead a half life mistaking it for a full life. Knowledge and awareness leads to wisdom which seems to be greatly lacking in both the realms of science and religions. To fight over truth (little t) and yet mistake it for Truth (big T) brings nothing but discord and is as far from wisdom as one can get.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Most Recent Painting

This is my most recent painting. I finished it in September, 2013. It is oil on canvas, 18x24. I show my painting in local shows a few times a year. For more on my art you can visit http://daav-corbet.fineartamerica.com/

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Matthew Chapter 14


Matthew Chapter 14

Herod, the secular politician, is trapped in this own words and lusts. The cost of saving face is the death of an innocent man, John. Corruption cannot stand before morality.

Jesus wishes to morn but the crowds do not let him. Jesus continues to bless and heal the crowds, providing for what they need. Jesus seems to move on a different plane then everyone else. Nature has no hold on him, nor does fear. Peter is still fearful and learning faith. It is easy to believe in some one else, but much harder to believe in oneself. Herod feared what his dinner guests would say and Peter feared the wind and water, neither had faith in their own actions. Others had enough faith to just reach out and touch Jesus’ cloak to receive healing.

Fear drives away faith, faith reaches towards and follows after Jesus into all the places he may go. Eyes on Jesus in faith do not leave room for fear.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Matthew Chapter 13


Matthew Chapter 13

The kingdom message is always a good thing. How it is received determines the fruit it will bear. Parables are used because not all are meant to understand, only those who have the eyes and ears set on the truth of God. How do we received the message, do we hear and see it?

The seed is the Gospel message, the kingdom of heaven. We are the soil, we all receive the seed but some are conditioned and ready to let the seed grow into a fertile plant. But hearing means being open, receptive, it means giving all for the seed, not worrying, or delaying. The soil only receives; God does the growing. In the end, the good seed in the good soil is all that remains.

Listening to the parables requires a response. Either one understands and accepts or one does not understand and the seed falls away. How do you respond to the seed planted in your life to day?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Matthew Chapter 12


Matthew Chapter 12

The Sabbath is for rest and communion with God, not for a legalized entrapment of others. The Sabbath is for health, healing and community. The religious leaders cannot understand the spirit of God because they are trapped by their understanding of Scripture. Even where the Scripture points to the Spirit they can only misunderstand. Sabbath rest is not a legalized ideal but a place of mercy.

Anything the religious leaders try against Jesus is easily refuted because they are not acting in the Spirit. History will stand against the generation that does not believe because history understands the Spirit as a testimony of the times to one who is greater than those in the past. The testimony of history supports the claims of the spirit, not the claims of the religious leaders.

Evil will be known by the fruits, which are produced out of the heart.

Being a disciple means being family.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Matthew Chapter 11


Mathew Chapter 11

John wonders about Jesus if he is the one to come or not. Earlier when John baptized Jesus, he knew. Now that John has been arrested and locked up in prison maybe his faith is shaken and he doubts what he once knew in the spirit of faith. Jesus reaffirms John’s faith by pointing out the good works and the good message that is being accomplished.

Now Jesus questions the crowd about who John is. John is the forerunner and herald of change. The crowds have left John for Jesus but the power and position of John has not changed. He is the Elijah who will bring the kingdom closer to all who can hear and understand.

Even those who witness the power of Jesus are unrepentant. They do not “hear” what the true message is. They have had their chance and time is coming to an end for them. They could have fasted with John or celebrated with Jesus, but instead they refused them both.

Repentance and life in Jesus is an easy burden unlike the Law, which has been made extremely difficult. Legalism of the Law oppresses, but the yoke of Jesus is mercy, forgiveness and compassion, which sets one free and makes life easier. Life in Jesus is not a burden but a freedom.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Matthew Chapter 10


Matthew Chapter 10

The workers are few. Jesus gathers his twelve disciples and empowers them with the authority to carry on his ministry. His commission comes with a price, total obedience to God. God will provide the means and the way. They are to depend upon God for the worker is worthy of his keep. None of them will be able to say “I did it” for it will all be from God. In fact the only reward they can expect is persecution, just as their Master, Jesus, is going to be persecuted. Jesus is in it with them and they with him. But the eternal reward will be worth the pain of this world.

Being sent by Jesus to preach and heal means being given special authority. Everyone will not recognize that authority. Those who recognize it will be blessed to receive the teachings. But being a disciple of Jesus requires sacrifice which the world does not understand but is necessary for the later reward. The Spirit empowers the disciples to make a difference in the world.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Matthew Chapter 9


Matthew chapter 9

True faith is accompanied by action. That is the faith that heals. A broken body is the same as a broken spirit. Faith and forgiveness must go hand in hand. Healing of the body is the same as healing the spirit (forgiveness of sins). Both come from the same authority. An authority the religious leaders do not need or understand. The righteous have already saved themselves, but the “sinner” still needs a doctor for healing. To them, Jesus has come to minister. The old do not understand the new. Jesus is new wine and a new patch that the old religion and tradition do not understand. He needs new ways to express what he has come to say and do. His teachings and healing with authority reflect this new way of faith.

Faith overcomes sickness and death; even demons flee before Jesus. “Nothing like this has been seen in Israel.” Jesus is new. Everywhere Jesus went he saw the need for his message and healing. The crowds were harassed and helpless. The state, the religion, and the leaders had all turned away from the crowds but Jesus had compassion on them and saw the great need there.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Matthew Chapter 8


Matthew Chapter 8

Jesus, finished with this section of teachings, begins to heal all those who come and ask for healing. A leprous man, a Centurion’s servant, and a woman, are all outsiders to the community of Jews. In them, Jesus finds great faith, even greater faith then among his own Jews. So much faith that it will replace the Jews and many will come from the East and West to sit with God at the final banquet. Great faith is found in Jesus’ ability to heal. This adds weight to Jesus teachings.

Jesus’ power seems to have no limits. But the faith of his disciples is limited. They have yet to understand the true nature of Jesus. Yet power can frighten. Instead of faith and freedom at the power over demons, some turn to fear. Responding in faith means over coming fear, fear of the expected, fear of the unknown, fear of the outcome. Faith means seeing a better possible future where the servant is healed, the leprosy is gone, and the demons ran off. Faith is holding to what can be even in the face of the fear which only focus on what is. How does one respond to Jesus power and authority?

Only gaze upon the slumbering lord in the midst of troubles to be comforted that peace can be had, even here.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Matthew Chapter 7


Matthew Chapter 7

As the Sermon on the Mount continues, Jesus turns towards attitudes of judgments. One’s life is so full of wrongs, evils and sins that there should be no room to point out other’s errors unless one it trying to distract from one’s own wrong doing. Concern yourself with your own life and then use that which you learn about self-improvement to help others. Judging is not the goal. You cannot see clearly to help others until after you have cleared the “plank” in your own life.

God will give good gifts to those who ask, seek and knock. It is an active faith in God, a faith set on God and searching after God. God will provide all the blessings in an active faith.

The Law and the Prophets are summed up in one easy saying: do to others what you would have them do to you. This follows God’s blessing. God will bless those who bless others. This way is not easy for the gate is small and the way narrow but leads to life. One will know by the fruit produced those who are the right way. The good fruit is a sure sign of a righteous person walking the narrow way. Others who come boasting and preaching but not producing are suspect. All who hear and obey are building a solid foundation for life. Treating others with compassion and justice is never the wrong way. This is self-evident. And a plain truth, but one that has been hidden. It takes Jesus to state it plainly. And in so doing reveals his authority. Those who do not know try to hide their lack of knowledge with confusing and contrary discourse. The truth is simple and simply revealed. Its simplicity carries weight and authority. It makes common sense that all can follow.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Sample of my Work in Progress, Untitled.


The force in the lift began to lessen as they reached an opening of a branch. They all followed Elijah out into the branch tunnel. It was dim after the brightness they had first experienced. Not too far along the tunnel of the branch leading away from the trunk was a set of windows. They stopped briefly to admire the view. Reagan judged they were three quarters of the way up the tree and well above the forest. They could see for miles and miles.

“Wow” Layla said stepping back from the windows. “That is high.” 

Windows continued to dot the walls as they walked further out in the branch. They could feel a slight breeze that was growing steadily stronger. They reached a place where the tunnel branched into two slightly smaller tunnels. It was unnoticed at first but obvious once Reagan began to look for it, the tunnel had been narrowing slightly. The group, following the Raven, turned down the left hand side of the split and after a dozen steps was greeted with an opening stretching before them. It was the source of the breeze. A large green deck stretched out from the opening. Another green “leaf” covered part of the deck.

“This is where I would have landed. But obviously your vehicle could not make a landing here. So we walked, and floated. Take a look if you would like.” Elijah spoke calmly. His feathers ruffled slightly in the breeze wafting in from the opening in the branch to the landing pad.

Reagan, Clara, and Olivia walked out on the deck. It was made of a very sturdy ceramic. Layla hung back. “No thanks. I can see fine from here,” she offered at their quizzical looks.

Reagan now noticed that each leaf hanging from the branches surrounding them was much thicker than he had first realized. Each one served as a room, or in clusters of leaves, as a whole house possibly. He could also make out other landing areas, usually near branch junctions. He walked near the edge and peered down. He could see the trunk stretching down to the ground far below.  He realized that many of the trees were similar to this one, housing a whole community of Ravens. He stepped a little closer and noticed the lack of a guardrail around the deck. Of course, what need would a bird have for guardrails? It was a long, long way down. Maybe Layla had the right idea. He moved slowly back from the edge. He sighed and moved to join her in the tunnel.

Clara laughed at him. “A space captain afraid of heights?” She mocked, as she stood motionless near the edge.

They resumed their walk and came to a cluster of leaves. Elijah rang a discrete buzzer at the opening. And they waited. It was not long until an aged Raven appeared whose dark feathers had mostly turned gray. He slowly inspected his guests. He greeted Elijah coolly.

“You have brought me humans.” It was not a question, but a statement directed at Elijah.

Read another sample here

Monday, June 10, 2013

Matthew Chapter 6


Matthew Chapter 6
One’s life is a demonstration of one’s heart. If one acts just for show or accolades then it demonstrates a heart not set on God, but rather on the approval of others. Charity, prayer, fasting and other spiritual disciplines are not for outward appearances or for a demonstration of righteousness. These things are between you and God, done for your own soul and should remain private. They are a personal discipline but with a communal aspect.

If one only looks to the approval of others and to earthly wealth then it can all be taken away in a minute. A fall from great heights is easy. But life in God through Christ and Spirit brings rewards that cannot be taken away; nor will they fail. Seeking God first lessens worry in life over things and positions, it also puts you in the care of God who knows what you need and how best to provide it. We often confuse our wants with our needs. God will provide for our needs if we trust in him to do so. But our wants are ours.

The Kingdom of God is not a future event but a way of living here and now with eternal rewards. Righteousness is how one lives from the heart, not in judgment of others or in self righteous legalism, but in mercy and compassion.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sermon on the Mount, Matthew chapter 5


Matthew Chapter 5
Jesus begins to teach. This section encompasses so much that a lifetime could be devoted to its study and yet more would still remain to be discovered. But a lifetime of study would miss the point of it because Jesus’ teachings are about actions. Real actions in a real world require real attitudes. Study leads to understanding, which is important, but can often lead to legalism, the Law. A life lived in these words of Jesus, leads to compassion and acts of righteousness. This section is all about a transformed heart which allows the Law to be lived as it should be, through compassion, not legalism.

Jesus begins with the beatitudes. Attitudes to hold in life. Attitudes which will bring blessings. These attitudes will end in persecution, just as they persecuted the prophets, and in time, Jesus. How can persecution be a blessing? The blessings are earthly possessions but rather the ability to handle life in a peaceful and godly manner. Persecution comes because we are the salt and the light, which is too much for the world to handle. The world is used to a bland, dark world. To challenge it with salt and light invites persecution.

The Law had been turned into a legal system bent on control. Jesus is going to free the Law and therefore the people, from legalism. The Law starts in the heart. Actions start in the heart. Without a heart set on God, transformed in the spirit, the best it can do is legalism. And the worst it can do is evil. But a transformed heart makes sense of the Law through compassion, mercy and peace.  The spirit of the Law which moves a transformed heart is an attitude of mercy, hope, forgiveness and compassion. It is going beyond the expected, the strict confines of what is required to the openness of a tender heart intent on right actions. Righteousness and legalism may look similar in actions but are worlds apart in intention. Righteousness is only possible through an open and transformed heart intent on God through the spirit. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Matthew Chapter 4


Matthew Chapter 4
After baptism come temptation and a wilderness experience. This experience is part of the winnowing process which turns a “calling” into a “ministry.”  Every new believer will go through a similar experience. If one is true to the calling of God then you will follow where God leads depending upon God for guidance, even if that means into the wilderness. Jesus rebuts the devil with words from Scripture. But these words reflect a willingness to be in God’s hands not tempted to take a short cut to success which is often just a trap. Israel went though a time in the wilderness, but they failed in obedience. Here in this time, Jesus remains faithful to God and his calling. And when it is done angels come to minister. A respite from the tempter does not mean the job is done. It means it is time to start working on the real task set before you. Beating temptation is not the active ministry only the prelude to active ministry. Devils and angels, if you are not in the hands of one you are in the care of the other.

Now Jesus is ready for his ministry to begin. Ordained by God, tempted by the devil, his course is set. Jesus takes up John’s message: “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” A theme seen in the Gospel of Mark, but a theme developed much more in this Gospel.

Jesus goes out to the common people, not the professionals and experts. Jesus seeks his first disciples among the average people, not religious leaders or other rabbis. And four fishermen respond. Why? Did they know Jesus? Did they sense his power or hear his words? Were they looking for a reason to escape the common life? Were they looking for excitement and a change of pace? Did they know the consequences of their “yes” to Jesus?

We see Jesus’ power revealed in the next section. He heals many. People are attracted to power, power that heals and a message of repentance draws the crowds. There seems no limit to Jesus’ power to heal “all” kinds of illness and disease. He is becoming famous. Now that his resume has been established, his power revealed and crowds gathered we get a glimpse at his teachings. He taught the disciples and the crowds. The next three chapters look at the teachings of Jesus in depth. It is not just a few sentences strung together or a few parables as we see in the Gospel of Mark, this next section reveals the heart of Jesus’ teachings and attitudes.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Matthew Chapter 3


Matthew Chapter 3
John stood outside the religious norm. He appears as a wild-man, a prophet, a revivalist even. His call to repent was for a transformed life, turned and changed. It is a lifestyle calling, not situational forgiveness. All the country was drawn to him, where they confessed sin and were baptized. His name was known. And he stood against the religion of the day. Fruit of repentance is more important than position or religion of birth. Purification is on its way and only the good fruit will survive, for the Holy Spirit and fire will not tolerate chaff regardless of its birthright.

Then Jesus comes, an unknown figure, but recognized by the known figure of John. John’s baptism is symbolic leading to a new life. Jesus is baptism of spirit, which is life. And the life in the spirit is fire that purifies or burns up depending upon what is aflame.

Righteousness must be fulfilled. There is a proper order to things. First the forerunner comes, then the one announced appears. This is ordained by God and the baptism is blessed by word and spirit. Fulfillment of righteousness can be a good and beautiful thing, but it can also lead to very agonizing experiences. The path of righteousness that the Messiah will take passes through both peace and pain, as we see in the next section. It is not all rose gardens, flowing water and blessings. There is also hunger, wilderness and temptations.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Matthew Chapter 2


Matthew Chapter 2

Magi come from the East following the signs in nature that something new has come. They come to find a king and yet the Jews do not know of him, nor the secular rulers. The distant Magi are more in tune with the divine workings through nature than the close by leaders with Scripture. Some times distance and a change of perspective will reveal what cannot be seen up close.

Scripture supports what nature had revealed and the Magi discerned: the time, place and person of the Christ. But the Magi by turning to the rulers of the land while searching for the Christ alert those rulers to the birth of the Christ. Immediately plots and actions are put into place to stop the Christ from coming. But God cannot be easily thwarted. Like the dream that warned Joseph of the proper action towards Mary, so the Magi receive a dream of the proper action towards Herod.

The Magi had to come but in so doing they alerted Herod to Jesus existence causing problems whereas Joseph and family had to flee until the problem was dealt with. In life we are often the source of problems, even unknowingly. We are also the receiver of problems. God did not need Joseph in Egypt; he just needed them away from Jerusalem. Sometimes we see solutions as an ending but it is just a moment in time until the next step of the journey is readied for us. Herod could have responded in many ways but his choice sent Joseph and family on a certain course of action. Joseph could have become bitter towards Herod, or even God for those events. And perhaps he did, but he stayed faithful. Later they were able to return to the Promised Land. The events of today may change tomorrow and the outcome may be different then we expect. But staying with God, in God, will bring about the best possible outcome even if the moment seems lost. Despair is looking at the past leading to the present, not the present leading to the future. Hope is looking towards the future standing in the present. Magi came in hope of finding the King. Joseph hopeful of the future obeyed God and fled to Egypt even thought it was an uncertain move.

Dreams and nature play important roles in this chapter. Nature brings the Magi to Jesus. Dreams help to determine the safest course of actions. How often do we turn to nature to find the way or listen to dreams to discern the correct course of actions? But also throughout this chapter Scripture appears. Scripture confirms what is known through nature or dreams. The three work together to discern, affirm and confirm the way to God.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Matthew Chapter One


Matthew Chapter One

This Gospel includes a genealogy. Obviously the lineage of Jesus as an identifier of Jesus’ authority had become important. Speculation on the need to define Jesus’ identity could run rampant and many questions could be asked but not fully answered. I think it is safe to leave it at there was a need in the community to define Jesus’ identity and this genealogy fulfills that need. It is a marker to Jesus as the Christ through both kingship (Son of David) and spiritual heritage (Son of Abraham). Jesus fulfills the role of earthly king and spiritual priest according to his genealogy. It is a distinctly Jewish lineage naming all the important Jewish figures, which make the inclusion of four Gentile women all the more prominent.

The birth of Jesus, through Mary, is told through Joseph. A Jewish tale. Joseph would do the right thing, which was to divorce her quietly. The compassionate thing would be to take her in and raise the child. And after a visit by an angel that also becomes the right thing to do. Interesting how the compassionate thing and the right thing merge after a divine intervention.

Through God, and Joseph’s obedience, Jesus is brought into the world. He has a divine purpose of which Scripture has spoken. Every section in the first few chapters of Matthew is supported with quotes from the Hebrew Scriptures, the Old Testament. Joseph (and Mary) take it in stride. Certainly that says much about their characters.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Gospel According to Matthew, first words


Matthew, first words
Mathew is quite a bit different from the Gospel of Mark. Where Mark is a concise version, a bare-bones outline of the life of Jesus, Matthew is much more detailed. This Gospel spends much more time with the teachings of Jesus. If Matthew was written later, possibly that first generation of believers was beginning to pass on and the first hand accounts of Jesus teachings was being lost. The community would desire a written account to preserve the life and teachings of Jesus for future generations. Certainly large parts of Mark were used as a guideline in the general structure but much new material is provided.

It is possible to see how the community of Christians had developed in their thoughts and faith by looking at the material in Matthew as compared to Mark. In Matthew we have more about the teachings of Jesus, with the Sermon on the Mount being a large part of that. In Mark we have statements such as “And Jesus taught them in the hill country...” which leaves us wondering, what did Jesus teach them? And now we can look to Matthew for those answers.

Another question is raised. As the first generation passed and those eyewitness accounts were lost, other generations naturally would ask, “why should we believe the teachings of Jesus? Who is Jesus?” Without being able to experience the miracles of Jesus or hear him speak first hand it is natural to ask those questions. Matthew begins to answer those questions as well. Jesus identity and heritage is addressed in real terms. This Gospel is a fuller story explaining more about Jesus. Matthew says here is Jesus; this is what he taught and why you should believe him. The need to preserve the credentials of Jesus as Christ became just as important as the need to preserve the teachings of Jesus. The written testimony comes to replace the spoken testimony of the first generation eyewitnesses to Christ.

The organizational structure of Matthew has some interesting points. One should perhaps not read too much into it, but it is thought provoking. If one does a comparison of the Torah, the first five books of the Bible, and first seven chapters of Matthew certain points become clear.

 


Torah

  1. Genesis
  2. Chosen family (Abraham)
  3. Joseph to Egypt (dreams)
  4. Death of all 1st born
  5. Parting the Red Sea & Jordan River
  6. Forty Years in the wilderness
  7. Receiving the Law

Matthew

  1. Genealogy
  2. Magi to the Holy Family
  3. Joseph to Egypt (dreams)
  4. Herod kills all children
  5. Jesus through the water (baptism)
  6. Forty Days in the wilderness
  7. Sermon on the Mount


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Age of Erosion


Age of Erosion


Mountain breezes
Whisper ancient names
Into my ear
Of eras long gone by.
Kingdoms past away
Like shifting sand
Once proud mountains
Warn by wind
And rainy ice.
Kingdoms crumbled
In breezes
Under mountain heights
Forgotten names of
Forgotten realms,
High mountain pass
Leading into the Wind
Bringing ice to
Devour the mountain.
End in shambles
 And brambles
Ocean sand, slipped away.


From One Year in the Mountains
Copyright 2010 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mark: Tentative conclusions


Mark: Summary and Tentative Conclusions
I call this a tentative conclusions because with the Gospel and the Spirit there are always new insights, perspectives and leadings. One can never say the definitive word about the life of Jesus or the message he preached.

This Gospel has a noticeable lack of higher Christology and profound theological implications about the identity of Jesus that takes a major hold of the other Gospels. It seems a simple story, on of conflict but also of peace.

Jesus came preaching a message: repent, the kingdom of God is near. I take this to mean turn away from the direction you are walking which was trespassing on others and walk with Jesus towards the Kingdom of God. Although the Kingdom of God is not defined, the manner of walking is. The “walk” means to serve other in word and action. Jesus main teaching and life example was one of service: healing, exorcism, parables and teachings. It all spoke of how God desires us to serve others. This teaching was in conflict with the religion of the day and the power structure within that religion. The Jewish Law dictated all aspects of life leaving little room for compassion or even service to others. And the religious leaders controlled how the Law was interpreted and instituted in daily life. They controlled the people through their religion. The people were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Religion squeezed them on one side and the Romans on the other side. They cried out for a Messiah who would set the religion right and run the Romans out of town. This Messiah would establish peace where the people would be free from oppression. But the Messiah who came did not come to overthrow but rather to preach peace. True peace can only come from the heart, a heart set free through transformation.

The people turned to Jesus in faith. His message and his actions demonstrated God’s compassion on the people and a possible reform of the religion. But held as a king, he might also mean the end of Roman control. Many flocked to Jesus in expectation. But this Gospel account does not address those expectations in any terms of fulfillment. Jesus’ message is on of humble servant-hood. Even his disciples, the closest of his followers, do not fully understand that message. A truly free heart is one that is bent on service towards others through compassion.

Power structures cannot stand those who do not play by the rules. Jesus should have turned his crowds and followers into a rebel army, that would have made sense to the leaders, both religious and secular. But he did not. And that confounded them. Jesus’ teaching took the wind out of their sails and was incomprehensible to the power structure. But it rang with truth to the crowds. Religion will not save you; it will only oppress you. The state will not save you; it will only oppress you. Salvation, that is freedom to live, can only come through service to others. If everyone lived by this code, this way of life, there would be no need for religion or for secular government. And that would strip them of all their power. In light of this, the religious leaders knew that Jesus had to die. So they framed him and forced the secular government to murder Jesus, an innocent man, to maintain their power. But Jesus knew the outcome of his teachings. Death was not to be feared.

Although the Gospel ends with Jesus’ death and a surprise ending, an empty tomb, the story continues in Galilee where Jesus had instructed the Disciples to meet him. What happens next? This Gospel does not say. We are left wondering with questions. The implication is if we all follow the teachings of Jesus then we might all go to the cross for fear of the power structure losing its power. But that would be the Kingdom of God. A message still very relevant today because it is still much needed today.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mark 16


Mark 16
Mark seems to have two endings. The most ancient texts end with the women fleeing the empty tomb with a message at verse eight. But more has been added with later texts, which makes sense because the story continues beyond the empty tomb.
- Short Version
Mary saw where Jesus was laid and went with other women to properly anoint the body. But the body was no longer present. In his place stood an angel directing the women to the fulfillment of Jesus teachings. Jesus had instructed them he would rise and wet them in Galilee. And now the women are to be the messenger to the Disciples that the Lord has risen and the next stage is set. Jesus is waiting in Galilee. Jesus, the son, has the inheritance readied. He is waiting upon those who will inherit the fertile fields prepared for harvest with truth. But this Gospel ends and we are left wondering what happens next.
- Long Version.
The Disciples do not meet Jesus in Galilee but continue in their unbelief. Even after a number of witness attest to Jesus resurrection. Finally Jesus appears to the Eleven and chastises them for their lack of faith. Jesus empowers them to continue his ministry of healing and to the spreading of the good news to all of creation.

This addition explains the state of affairs in the community of the gospel’s author. The power they share and their commission to do the work they are undertaking. It helps to bridge the gap from the failure to appear in Galilee and vibrant community that is still maintaining the teachings of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Mark 15


Mark 15
Jesus stands silent as day breaks and a new dawn is about to start for humanity. Pilate and the Jewish leadership attempt to use Jesus as a pawn in their political maneuverings, but Jesus, innocent, remains free of the politics for this is the path God has set for truth to be revealed. Jesus is convicted not of a crime but of a mob mentality. Jesus, son of man and beloved of God, is held captive but Barabbas (Son of God), a convicted murderer is released.

Jesus kingship is tested. The Jews deny it and the Romans mock it, but Jesus accepts it in the form it comes: death. Outsiders are gathered around this king while his subjects mock him and misunderstand his true nature as servant to others. And his Disciples abandon him. Simon of Cyrene, a centurion, some women and Joseph of Arimathea are the witnesses to the brief earthly reign of Jesus on the Cross, all outsiders and foreigners.

And the Temple curtain is cut in two. God is released; the old religion is done. Christ the king has come to collect his due from the unfaithful tenants and found them wanting. Now something new is happening and the Jewish leaders, even the Disciples, are absent. This new thing is for the outsider. It is for the ones with eyes to see and ears to hear. This new thing is grace and mercy, not wrath. Instead of the landowner driving out the evil tenants, he allows the son to die. But the inheritance does not go to the tenants. That has been prepared for someone else. Change never comes without sacrifice and pain.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Mark 14:53-72


Mark 14:53-72
This is a religious problem, a problem the religious leaders try to deal with in a backhanded way but cannot find a trusted testimony against Jesus. So they cut to the chase: “Are you the Christ?” That is a huge question, the heart of the problem. Jesus’ answer condemns himself and undermines all the authority of the religious leaders. The response is dramatic rage. There is no time to reflect upon the answer or the meaning of the question. Do they not want and expect the Messiah? Are they responding out of fear of what it may mean or fear at the possible loss of their power base? Why do they react with violence to Jesus peacefulness as the Christ?
                    
And then we get the first contrite heart, Peter. He saw Jesus in ministry. He knew Jesus personally. He heard the parables, the teachings and the explanations. Peter was an insider who proclaimed Jesus as Christ. And he promised to die with Jesus, to stand next to him through it all. But he could not. And he broke down and wept. It is not until one is broken that one can be remade as God would have you. No amount of training, praying or promising amounts to one moment of brokenness and weeping, ready to be remade.

Change never comes without sacrifice or pain.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mark 14:1-52


Mark 14:1-52
The Passover lamb is readied for sacrifice. The woman anoints Jesus head. The disciples do not understand this meaning and Judas agrees to betray Jesus. The Lamb is ready for sacrifice and his body and blood are given freely for the covenant which it symbolized. Even now the Disciples still continue to miss the point. Death is coming and all will fall away for death is not coming for them, only Jesus. The Disciples must live on. The Disciples who insisted they would walk to death with Jesus could not even walk in prayer with him. But Judas and the religious leaders could walk with death and gather against Jesus, for night has come. All scatter before the crowd at the arrest of Jesus. Possibly they were expecting a rebellion and Jesus to rise up against Rome, but that was never Jesus teaching, nor his purpose.

In the night with a kiss, Jesus is betrayed. This darkness Jesus saw coming and was prepared for it. But dawn cannot come except after night and darkness as passed away. The dark night still looms ahead for Jesus. He is alone. His friends have deserted him. The bitter cup of tears has been presented. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mark 13


Mark 13
Cryptic remarks about “End Times” always leaves one asking more questions. But it comes down to the two questions which the disciples started it all with: When? And how will we know? And neither question is answered in a manner that we would find satisfactory. What we are left with is three things.
1. It will happen when God chooses it to happen. And the lead up to it will be obvious for those who are watching.
2. God will provide for his own people as it happens so be prepared for instant action but not worried about the outcome.
3. Watch for it as one guarding the door to the house. Diligence, perseverance, and expectation are the watch words.
But ultimately what does it all mean?
It means that the Kingdom of God is a real thing, that God’s concern is for this place and these people and at some point true peace will descend upon the earth. But when it does there will be great calamity and existing powers will fight the change and imbalance as heaven and earth meet. Watchfulness is a state of being which keeps one focused on the kingdom that will come and attention off the things of the earth.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Mark 12


Mark12
Parables can be profound and also a little slippery. The religious leaders knew Jesus was talking about them in light of the evil tenant. But does that mean God is absent, the absentee landlord? And only sends others to collect his dues? One has to be careful to not read too far into a parable. But one should still explore the story for meaning. I think we will find that we are left to our own with things that we know. God does not need to micromanage our lives. But we have to respect Him and pay dues when he comes to collect or what was ours (religion, theology, culture) will be taken away. The religious leaders ultimately lost out and Jesus teachings come to replace them. It did not have to go down that way if they were to respond to God with openness, not with evil desires.

And yet they still tried to catch Jesus in another trap. Taxes are a “this world” thing that have no bearing on God or things of God. Keep them separate and pay to the world what you must but keep your eyes on the things of God which this world cannot understand. God is the God of the living and death has no place there. So theological maneuvering which does not understand the true nature of God and the Kingdom of Heaven cannot stand as truth only as tricks of the mind to be misunderstood.

Again Jesus calls out the religious leaders for their failure to understand. For a true understanding of God can only come from love, a love that extends to our neighbors. You cannot say you love God and then treat others as the religious leaders do. Love of God is love towards your neighbor. Love gives to God and to others; it does not take like the religious leaders have been known to do. Love is to give, even the last cent if it comes from the heart. Giving from love knows no bounds in action. Falling back on the law or tradition as a scapegoat in false behavior undermines God’s true religion which is based in love and an open heart towards others. And this truth is the heart of Jesus’ teachings and life. A truth for which he must die, a truth the disciples are still trying to grasp. Even today.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mark 11


Mark 11
Jesus enters Jerusalem as a king might enter with applause and fanfare. But he does not go to the Roman seat of power as if to protest their rule, nor does he threaten them in any way. He goes to the Temple and makes an inspection. If he is king then his kingdom is not temporal but spiritual, where the Temple and religion are central. It is late so he leaves to return the next day. On the next day he stakes his claim to the Temple. He purifies it of what he sees as filth and misuse of the Temple grounds. He stretches his hand out against it, as he did the fig tree and no one will eat of it again. This Temple is passing away, withering as the fig tree.

Prayer is not about cursing or blessing, but about asking with a clean heart. How hard is it to stand before God and ask when we have held back from others? Authority is a matter of perception and confession. Religious authority cannot accept nor deny Jesus because he does not fit their perceptions, as John did. They stand before Jesus, and God, in the Temple courts unable to confess the power of God which is present. They cannot pray with clean hearts. And this is just the beginning of their attempts to stand before Jesus and entrap him. But Jesus is in his element, his kingdom, and no one can stand against him.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Mark 10:32-52


Mark 10:32- 52
Another hint at the end of the story and yet it goes by unnoticed by the disciples. When Jesus comes into his own, the disciples think it will be with power and they wish to share in that power. But Jesus makes it clear, again, that power is not authority to rule over others but humility as a servant to others. To follow Jesus and the way to the Kingdom of God means to walk willingly to one’s death as a servant to others in complete obedience to God. Jesus continues to serve others by healing them even when he knows the end is near. Walking the way means being attentive to the way and the destination. The final resting place gives meaning to the way but walking in it daily, with open eyes, takes one to the kingdom of God. The way leads to the kingdom which gives meaning to the way, but one only knows the way by walking in faith and compassion daily. And for Jesus that way leads to Jerusalem and the ultimate sacrifice. How has walking daily in compassion brought you rewards and also sacrifices?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mark 10:1-31


Mark 10:1-31
Jesus teaches: main theme is being open before God, not hard-hearted. Children serve as the prime example of being open and the rich the prime example of being hardhearted. Being soft-hearted or open to God means to live a life of harmony with others. Following religious or cultural forms but being hardhearted gets you no closer to the Kingdom of God then being evil. Following the rules or forms of religion does not gain you grace with God, unless it changes your heart to being open to God. Obedience to the way of the open heart leads to the great rewards but at great cost and effort. It comes naturally to children, the least of the population. The way of the open heart is the way to the Kingdom of God but it is not synonymous with obedience to religious tradition. Children will find new ways of solving old problems because they are open to the newness that is life and spirit.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Mark 9:2-50


Mark 9:2-50
Another baptism event: Jesus is transfigured and God speaks. A monumental event that plays vivid with the imagination (and identity of Jesus) but which plays no role in the gospel. It is just an affirmation of what we have already seen. Neither the Disciples nor the author of Mark, make a big deal about what it means for Jesus, although he does seem to have an attitude shift. Jesus seems to be more impatient with the disciples, and others. It is as if he has been handed his marching orders and no one else seems to understand what that means. “Oh unbelieving generation,” “if you can?” Terms of frustration directed at other’s inability to make sense out of Jesus simple teachings.

And then Jesus explains his marching orders. He will be betrayed, killed and rise form the grave. The disciples, after seeing and hearing so much, still do not understand. Who they think Jesus is, the Greatest, is not who Jesus shows them he is, a servant healing others, teaching the truth of love and peace. And now he is going to his death. That kind of disconnect has to create a certain amount of friction and frustration. Students who are so preoccupied with their own perceptions and expectations cannot grasp the simple message of the teacher.

The disciples, who cannot cast out demons, act as religious leaders and forbid others from doing it. Jesus corrects them. Any in the name of Christ are all part of the same family, a house divided... But those who cause stumbling in the believer are not part of the family and need to be cast out. It is better to have an incomplete body then one that causes harm to it members. Peace is the hallmark of a united body and family.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mark 8:1-9:1


Mark 8:1-9:1
Right after Jesus feeds 4,000 with just a few loaves and fishes he is asked to give a sign. What could they have been looking for? Jesus has already feed thousands, healed dozens and cast out demons. When you do not believe, no amount of evidence will ever be enough. Even the Disciples still do not grasp the full truth. It is not about things here on this plane; Jesus has that covered. It is having eyes to see and ears to hear the things of God which brings truth.
To see, sometimes means to leave the village. How many conversations has Jesus had with people outside of the village, away from the city. Now he takes a blind man out to the countryside to help him to see. And this is right after he chastised the Disciples for not seeing.
Peter must have learned something because now he can see Jesus for who he is, the Christ. But Peter’s sight is still not clear. He needs Jesus to touch his eyes one more time to see things as they really are.
Jesus teaches the true way to the Kingdom of God. It is through compassion and love for others. But it must end at the cross. We must all take up the cross, forsake the world of men, the religious traditions, and the expectations of others. We must live the life of the cross, which is sacrifice for love and compassion.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Mark 7


Mark 7
Traditions often become more important than a right understanding of God. And tradition can be used as an authority to control others. What makes you right is how you act and what you say, not what traditions may define or dictate. If compassion and goodness come out in you words and actions, as they do with Jesus, then you are clean before God regardless of what the religious leaders of the day may say. Action reveals the heart; a pure heart does pure actions, an unclean heart betrays evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. That is quite a list! There is not a list of goodness because it is a condition of the heart depending upon the circumstances. Goodness knows how to act and does not need a laundry list to check against. That is the failure of religion trying to contain a clean heart with traditional ways to act in goodness. Goodness always finds a fresh way to act, through the spirit with newness of life.

Even outsiders, gentiles and Greeks, see the truth and power of Jesus. An open tongue is to speak plainly; an open ear is to hear the truth. Those who gather to Jesus cannot but help to share the openness of who he is which draws more people to him. But the religious leaders stay “closed” to Jesus. They cannot hear or see except what they want to because, although they act according to tradition, they do not understand the truth. To be open is to live with God in a life moving towards the Kingdom of God, which it truth and peace.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Mark 6


Mark 6
Familiarity leads to doubt. Others cannot accept you if they think they know you. Knowledge stunts faith in that faith must move beyond what one knows to a new understanding. Jesus amazes his hometown and yet they cannot move in faith to accept him.
Jesus sends out the Twelve, and yet they hardly have faith and understanding in Jesus. As they are sent they are told to have total faith in God’s ability to provide. Which is funny because when they return they do not have faith in God’s ability to feed 5,000. In the midst of the story of Disciples’ faith we find John and Herod. Jesus, in fame, has surpassed John and Herod takes note. There must be more to the John/Herod story but we do not hear it. With the downfall of John and with Jesus’ rise in fame we get a hint that a conflict will happen.

A timeline of events will help to make clear a number of themes that are happening concerning faith in this chapter.
1. Jesus sends out the Twelve
2. They return thrilled at their experiences but exhausted.
3. Immediately they go with Jesus to rest in a quiet place, but crowds follow.
4. Jesus orders the Disciples to feed the 5,000
5. Jesus orders the Disciples to shepherd the 5,000 into manageable sized groups.
6. The crowd eats with abundance.
7. Immediately Jesus sends the 12 away in a boat, while he goes to pray.
8. The 12 struggle against the wind all night, Jesus appears walking on water.

What happened to the Disciples’ thrill about the power when they were sent out? Did exhaustion overtake them? Why did Jesus push them so hard when he knew they were on the edge?
Faith is hard to hold on to when exhausted. Grudging obedience creates hard hearts that are not open to the thrill of faith and the power one has in faith. Rest is important to faith, but rest often does not come when it is needed. The thrill of faith in one moment can turn to bitter griping the next when life throws wind and demanding crowds into your way. Were the Disciples expecting a pat on the back for their service in the field? They certainly wanted time alone with Jesus but instead they got another day of heavy service followed by a night of hard work. Often the work seems to have no end and one feels obligated to trudge on in obedience. That mindset only gets you to a point of pulling against the wind all night long, instead of walking on water in faith. Spend time in prayer, even in the midst of work. Faith is work expressed in true power. But that faith only comes through trusting in God to provide, for the journey, for the meal, for the crowds, for the way across the lake at night.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mark 5


Mark 5
Jesus’ compassion even extends to the demons in the demon possessed man. He should have banished them, but Jesus shows mercy to them. And the man, healed, becomes the symbol of the gospel message to the people in the area. Here the demons beg Jesus to stay, and the people beg Jesus to leave. Fear rules both the people and the demons. But in the midst is the man, calmed, the message of health and peace that Jesus brings everywhere.

That message is beginning to reach into the religious structure of the day. A Synagogue ruler responds with faith in Jesus’ ability to heal. And in the midst of Jarius’ story of faith, another story occurs. Here a woman of faith is healed. Although it serves as a comma to create a pause to ponder faith, really it serves as an exclamation point about how it is faith that brings healing, not Jesus. Jesus merely blesses the event that has already happened. But holding to faith in the midst of fear, doubt or dismay is hard. Especially when friends or family tell you otherwise. But healing only comes through faith. Jesus is already willing to show mercy on any and all who come asking for it. Jesus confirms the faith that is already present. “Don’t be afraid, just believe.”

At this point we could have a spirited debate about faith healing, and if faith is a works, if faith starts with the believer, if healing that does not happen is because of a lack of faith... and the list on faith could be endless. But all that discourse, although it might (or might not) be edifying and thought provoking, misses the point. Jesus heals, and healing is available through faith. But Jesus is not a faith healer. Jesus came with a message, as a pointer, towards repentance and the Kingdom of God. Healing comes when one walks in Jesus footsteps towards the Kingdom of God. That kind of healing only comes to those with open hearts, eyes and ears to see and hear and respond to Jesus. In the next few chapter this will be made clearer. Jesus is heading towards confrontation, one that will define what it truly means to live a repentant life with eyes on the Kingdom of God.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Mark 4:35-41


Mark 4:35-41
Jesus not only teaches about nature, but has control over nature. Certainly his rebuke of the Disciples could be taken that they should have had enough faith to rebuke the storm as well. Or it could read that they should have had faith to know that no harm would be fall them. Here the Disciples have seen miracles and received teachings where all things were revealed, and yet they feared a storm.

It is easy to lack faith in the midst of life’s storms, often when we need it the most we find it hardest to hold. If the storm is not calmed, at least we can know we will make it through safely. There are no secrets to having faith in the times of crisis, either you do or you don’t. But even though they were chastised for it, the Disciples did the right thing by turning to Jesus when they lacked the faith to fight on. Knowing the limits to one’s faith, and abilities, is a very sound self- knowledge. The boat was packed with knowing and able fishermen. Running a boat was not past their abilities, but the storm was. When they reached the end of their skills they needed to rely on faith. But that is hard to do when life circumstances are over whelming.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mark 4:1-34


Mark 4:1-34
Again Jesus is by the lake, away from the city or village, out of the church/synagogue. Again crowds come to hear him speak. He gives them a number of parables, stories that would make sense to them; stories out of their own life experience. But the parables contain more than just farming techniques, they teacher a deeper lesson.

The seed must be spread everywhere, just as light from the lamp must be cast everywhere. What the light reveals or how the seed grows is of God, a mystery to the farmer. But the seed must be cast and the soil will respond as it can. Good soil returns good crops, bad soil no crops. It is up to the farmer to sow the seed and up to God to bring the seed to fruit in its time. The Kingdom of God will be fulfilled. And the deeper one wishes to mine the parables for truth, the more they will find. Like a Zen koan. Meditation upon the parables of Jesus can be a life long endeavor and the truth will just keep coming like a mustard seed growing into a large tree.

One could reflect upon whose responsibility it is to prepare the soil? Isn’t rejoicing in the potential abundant harvest of the prepared soil enough, or do we need to chastise the path and rocks for not being soil? Or do they serve another purpose that is not part of the parable as it was told? And what about those birds? And who in their right mind would put a lamp under a bed? The answer is obvious, but that parable of a parable means all things are revealed in the light of Wisdom, even though Jesus reveals it in secret to the Disciples. A hint that there is no “secret” teachings of Jesus, only teachings that have not been meditated upon sufficiently for the truth to be revealed.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A few paragraphs


The trip to Megaplex would take three days. And then two days over to the Sultanate, and four back home. A lot of alone time, which was just how Reagan liked it. Occasionally Toolbox would accompany Reagan, but the monkey spent most of his time in the engineering sections of the ship adjusting and tweaking the performance so much that it made Reagan nervous. On straight runs with a hold full of cargo Reagan would invite his girlfriend, Becca, along. She was good company. But on this trip he wanted the decorum of a clean ship, no unnecessary clutter or awkward conversations that might come up between the captain’s girlfriend and a Sultan’s soon to be bride.

Once clear of the Ring and far enough out into space, Reagan could power up the Zero Drive and then relax. Time passed smoothly until the marker for the outer boundaries of Megaplex chimed. Reagan cut the Zero Drive and fell back into standard space/time.
Reagan was seated in the captain’s chair on the bridge. He watched the scopes closely. This was not his first trip to Megaplex, but it was always an odd experience. Soon, two blips appeared on his scope at maximum range. He was still two or three hours flight time from Megaplex. An escort was not unusual. The blips closed quickly with his ship.

Two Dolphins slipped quietly into formation beside the Twist of Fate. Their ships were long and sleek with a big bubble dead center. They were not equipped with Zero Drive engines but what they did have were far more powerful then the Twist of Fate’s near planet engines. Reagan assumed that the hull of the escort ships also contained many lethal weapons hidden from view. He hoped he never had to encounter the escorts in their armed configuration.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

A quick look into my next book


This is a short excerpt from my upcoming book, still untitled. Another short reading will be made available later in the week. 


On his way back to the bridge, Reagan noticed that the bodyguard was in the kitchen portion of the galley preparing a meal. “I trust you rested well.” Reagan began as he poured another cup of coffee.

The big man turned, startled. His hand moved of its own accord to the blade he carried on his belt in the small of his back. He was dressed in a blue loose fitting slacks, a matching tank top and shipboard slippers. A relaxed dressed and one that told Reagan this man had seen many transits.

“My apologies.” The guard offered. “The first day of a voyage is always the hardest for a new bride. Much uncertainty awaits her. It makes new brides... ready to be foolish. This is not my first trip to fetch a bride. In fact it is one of my duties.” The guard turned back to his food preparation. “Sometimes when the weight of the decision finally fully rests on the shoulders of a new bride, they look for an escape. Or a last fling.” The man turned back towards Reagan and gave him a penetrating look. “I am here to prevent that, as well as to see her safely to her new home.”

Reagan sized up the man. Confident, large, relaxed and in control were words that came readily to Reagan’s mind. He did not like the man’s tone, nor the implications of what he was saying. “I would never violate my contract. You and her are secure here.”

“And that is always what the captain says. Even the captains with wandering eyes... and hands.” He emphasized the point by moving his hand back to his blade.

“I respect your position. Now please respect mine. I am here to pilot my ship and fulfill a contract. That is all. I do not need threats from you, veiled or not. This is my ship and if you violate the terms of the contract, rest assured it will be ended immediately. And I will drop my cargo immediately regardless of where we are located.” Threats could go both ways.

The man picked up the tray of food and moved quietly towards the cabins. Reagan also knew that he could easily drop word about what the escort did aboard ship, with or without evidence, and it would end the man’s career if not his life. He was sure the guard knew that as well. Reagan really despised these games of bluster and posturing. Reagan did not see him again until the day they docked at the Gardens.

The Gardens was the docking area for ships seeking safe harbor at the Sultanate. The Sultanate was not a planet if its own right. It was a collection of asteroids, planetoids and small moons that had been smashed together over a period of centuries, as additional space was needed for the growing population of the Sultan’s Empire. The Sultan forbade entrance to the Empire to any infidel. But some trade and commerce were required so as a section of the planet, called the Garden, was established for non-believers to make landfall. It was an opportunity for the Sultan to show off his wealth and power as well as for other families of the Sultanate to conduct business. The Garden offered a vast, well-tended garden of many delights. It also offered many “backrooms” for other delights and places to conduct shadowy business deals.