rims

i got a message from my doo-wop-singing-retired-janitor friend (aka “John”)  this morning telling me that (1) he is still alive, (2) the weather in FL is “cold”, and (3) he’s still listening through the Bible on tape, but he’s taking a break from the OT because “it’s like a history lesson”.

i miss him. The new janitor is nice -n- all, but she doesn’t sing.

Anyhow, it made me think of this draft i have saved up since last friday. Also i mentioned this whole thing on ACTS last night & couldn’t remember the reference (sad). Without further ado ::  

 

i’ve been reading through Ezekiel for …a while now. It’s so tough for me to retain this stuff. i should write about it more often. In the very least, the pages are full of my chicken scratch reactions. OT prophecy is not a favorite for me, however, here’s something interesting. Alongside a lot of this OT prophecy (it’s been months of ISAIAH, JEREMIAH, and EZEKIEL) i’m also reading ACTS. In chapter 13, Paul, in regards to (i’m thinking it’s mainly the Pharisees) the Jewish peeps not recognizing who Jesus was, says, “…those same prophets are read every Sabbath in their meeting places.” (v.27)

Interesting. (because) At the time i read that, i wrote in the margin how i couldn’t remember the last time, if ever really, that OT Prophecy was focused on in a Sunday morning service. Granted, i do have a bad memory, but prophecy is not a typical focus for any church i’ve attended.

:: sidenote(s)

:: we’re reading through JOHN in my study group and it’s remarkable how much they (many of the Jews/Pharisees) did not get or really see prophecy unfolding & who Jesus really was – especially given the fact that (according to that verse in ACTS) prophecy was studied like what.

& interesting. (because) Now within the last three weeks or so, Mars Hill decided to pick up a series on EZEKIEL. (!) Shane Hipps has done a couple sermons, but Rob Bell is still the teacher that i get. Can i call him Rabbi? Is that okay? Cuz i want to… just sayin. A couple days ago, i listened to his sermon “The Pain is Our Teacher” while at work, and could not stop laughing & learning. He starts out reading ch.one, really fast with very few pauses; one in which he states that he’s “exhausted” by it. This, by the way, is perfectly in line with how i read it. Ezekiel is a book that wastes no time with jumping right into that whattheheck?! action. Rob pauses at the end of chapter one and says, “i don’t even think i need to say anything cuz it’s pretty clear inn’t it? This kids is why you shouldn’t do drugs.” HA! YES. hilarious. good ending thought to all that.

Amidst his witticisms, he explains what is profound in the timing and placement of where & who Ezekiel is and what’s cool about how personalized God is, in revealing Himself to Ezekiel. All stuff that i completely missed because i don’t know chronological history, nor am i immersed in the culture of Ezekiel, nor do i fully think about who Ezekiel is or what his life was like or about. Suffice to say, that kind of stuff is fascinatingly important to getting any kind of understanding. It makes scripture really come to life. i wish. i wish i had been able to hear this sermon prior to reading any of this book. Then again, i believe in purpose of timing to ..well, pretty much everything.

 i listened to this sermon again yesterday (10/06). yup. it still rocks my world. Here’s an excerpt:

Sometimes God goes around the mind and speaks directly to the heart and the imagination. Some pain is too hard for our minds to comprehend. And so what sometimes God has to do is go around our mind and speak directly to our heart. what you find in this vision is, Ezekiel experiences something that blows his mind but it speaks to his heart. One scholar Johnathon Taylor simply says it this way, “This is how God revealed himself to Ezekiel. Not by propositions regarding His character, but in personal encounter. God doesn’t show up by the river and say, Ezekiel, do you not recall that I am (A) Omniscient (B) Omnipotent (C) Good (D) Nice. No, He doesn’t show up with a nice systematic outline explaining things. God shows up in power and explosive creativity and says I’m here.

…sometimes what God does, is God understands how we’re wired and He understands that for many of us our mind is our god. And so God realizes, if I just try to reason with you, that’s not gonna work, so I am gonna go around your mind and I’m gonna get into your heart. I am going to to give you assurance. I am going to give you peace. I am going to give you calm. I am going to give you hope. I am going to give a vision of the future and I am gonna go right into your heart and give it to you there cuz if i give it to you in your mind you’re gonna try to figure it out and you’re gonna screw it up.

– r.bell

 

:: p.s. on a personal non-descript note — i’ve been screwing up like freaking crazy lately. It humbles (&baffles) me that God would still “work” with this mess to reveal anything new to me about who He is.

If there’s anything i’ve learned the most through reading the OT prophets, it’s that God is incredibly creative and artistic in relating with us. And i can’t help but LOVE that. i’m really in awe of it. &it’s true. Where words often fail, art prevails. There’s such power in things that often approach at an abstract or metaphoric level. i am in love with that, like i can’t even relate how much. Someone would have to dance it out to even come close to explaining it. It’s so beautiful.

i will always remember this time, a few years ago, when i was driving home from work and i kept seeing monarchs periodically fluttering around. Suddenly outta nowhere, as i was stopped at a stoplight, a legion of ’em crossed overhead. Seriously TONS flying by like a monarch factory had just hatched out. It was so random and awesome that i remember thinking, “wow God. You get me. You get me like no one else does. You get me more than i get me.” It was kind of a “magical” time in life in general, as i nostalgically remember it. i was wowed by communication between God and people being evident in nature and relationships and situations and holy crap everywhere. It’s personal – individualized like God knows all the lines on our hands – oh wait, God does. Isn’t life a strange sort of art, that is God continually speaking to us? Sweetly in the good things and surprisingly even in the hard things. Refreakinmarkable. There really is nothing that can fulfill me like that. i forget that. a lot.

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steep.

tea.

i’m finally done with JEREMIAH. Now onto the next prophet EZEKIEL. Seriously Peterson? i can’t get a break? i suppose ACTS (which i’m loving btw) being thrown in the mix, is my break. i wish i could retain this stuff. i’m fascinated by things i don’t think i’ve ever read before — only maybe i have. To be sure, there’s a lot i haven’t read. i have never read through all of ACTS before. Ezekiel’s right. It does taste like honey… sometimes.

i just read EZEKIEL 1-3. i know i’ve read or heard it read or listened as others talked about it before. In fact, i’m fairly certain my study group read this part at one point — although, i think i missed that week. Anyway, it might as well be a de ja vou read through — hazy details in the back of my mind, coming into high-def-focus as i read it. This stuff is crazy. It’s like a horror flick or a really bad/confusing nightmare. It makes me think that God sent Ezekiel something so shocking to make him understand who he should fear and how condemnation from the Israelites will be a piece of cake compared to this vision and the glory of God. Guess we could all use somethin’ like this from time to time.

So Ezekiel, is referred to by “the Glory of God” (theMessage) or “the LORD” (ESV), as “son of man” repeatedly. What’s that about? Sure, son of man makes sense, in that Ezekiel was a born of a human being. It’s interesting how the only other individual, that i can recall in the Bible being directly called/named “son of man” is Jesus.

Ezekiel is told to ingest/EAT the word in order to prepare him to speak it boldly. And it’s not an analogy within this vision. He eats it. And he says it tastes like honey. Funny thing is, the particular words written on the scroll aren’t sweet ones at all. They’re described as “lamentations and mourning and doom”. And “it tasted so good”…? heh. Not hard to swallow? Really? That’s interesting.

If only i could take a bite, or as Peterson described it “make a full meal of it!” (theMessage) or “feed your belly… fill your stomach with it” (ESV) and retain it that way. If only i could grind up the pages of scripture and stick it in a filter, tie it up & steep it with hot water & honey to drink & retain it. Wouldn’t that be nice. i wish.

i love this analogy and am frustrated by it at the same time. That Gods word/scripture is sustenance/life-force. That it is more than just words on a page; rich with necessary nutrients in order to be healthy. Like food and water — it is a pressing daily need to energy and life. The frustration is in the burn-off; the moment i think i get it and am on fire and have it held within, seems too temporary. Yet i know the daily need is like the blessing of enjoying another meal, seated close in the company of a King. (sweeet relationship.)

One more thing. Ezekiel is added to a (my) list (w/ Jonah and Moses being most prevalent on my mind) of those who are not necessarily filled with JOY to bring a message to people from God.  Peterson writes it like this, “The Spirit lifted me and took me away. I went bitterly and angrily. I didn’t want to go. But God had me in his grip.” (theMessage 3:14) or “… I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me.” (ESV) Come to think of it Jeremiah isn’t necessarily joyful to bring a message either. Yet, he can’t hold it in himself — “The words are a fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I’m worn out trying to hold it in.” (theMessage JER 20:9) or “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.” (ESV) As though he has eaten of the same honeyed scroll Ezekiel has and it’s given him indigestion or worse – food poisoning – better out than in.

i think it’s remarkable (good/bad) how God would still use someone who is defiant/bitter/angry against what God calls them to do. On one hand i think, wow that’s awesome that i can be a total schmuck about things and God still allows me to be a part of it anyhow and on the other hand i think, is there really choice here? Being swallowed by big fishies and lifted up by supernatural creepy creatures seems less like persuasion of the heart and more like …somethin else. Yet, i am convinced we are not puppets – these things make me think.

taughannock

As is standard for most summers, i made my obligatory trip to taughannock. Soon after i came back home (in 2002), after i had decided that, that part time thing was not for me, and i felt like…. uhhh so now what??, i spent a lot of mornings dropping off the resume at places i’d never want to work and then the rest of the day here whenever possible. It was so beautiful & a great hike & easy to forget that i felt a little overwhelmed and a little like a failure. Escapist’s imaginary Eden. Is escapism a human trait? i’m pretty sure it’s an accessory that  may come standard with eyelashes or toes or the aorta.

     i was thinking about escapism when i read JEREMIAH 42 yesterday.

‘If you are ready to stick it out in this land, I will build you up and not drag you down. I will plant you and not pull you up like a weed.

…If you have determined to go to Egypt and make that your home, then the very wars you fear will catch up with you in Egypt and the starvation you dread will track you down in Egypt. You’ll die there!’

sticking.it.out. Not running away just cuz things are tough. Not retreating away just cuz communication is skewed. Recognizing when God says to stay put and when He says to go. & how? By being connected to something greater than our own reasoning. My own reasoning tells me to run away from “home” constantly. i trick myself into disconnection all the time; it’s self supposed validation born out of disappointment of connection with people. i’d rather shut my phone off and drive miles away and stay stuck in the hurt that remains no matter where i physically go, than to face whatever the real facts may be to broken relationships. What an awful ruse.

The crazy part with those verses is how the people want to run to the very place that their ancestors were delivered out of. How ridiculous. How absolutely human. 

fomented

i saw a lady on the news last night, who was going around Rochester measuring temperatures in various spots. The weather people said this is the first real heat-wave this city has seen in a few years now, so that is why everyone thinks it’s 190 out. Turns out it is actually well over 100 in a few spots. Construction workers say it’s like air conditioning compared to laying black-top. So it’s all about perspective. If we were all construction workers for a few days, then came back to this, we’d all be like ahhhhhhh.  i wonder if they’re hiring…

For the first time yesterday JEREMIAH actually made me laugh. Twenty-eight chapters in and i genuinely (not acronymly) laughed out loud. The title Peterson uses for this section is From a Wooden to an Iron Yoke but i feel like it shoulda been Prophecy Showdown BC. Everything has been dark and full of Jeremiah wrestling with speaking the truth to the people — [which, funny how he pleads their case for God to forgive them up until it gets personal & they’re attacking him more vehemently. Then it’s all ‘God how long will you wait to destroy them?!’]. So, maybe it’s not supposed to be funny, but when Hananiah and Jeremiah are “battling” it out with prophecy, it’s this line — Jeremiah walked out — that made me laugh. It follows  Hananiah reaching out and grabbing a yoke (which, btw – i’m failing at trying to envision what this looked like on him) off of Jeremiah and smashing it, like some ultimate slam against Jer’s prophecy. And Jer’s response? oh yeah? well, Peace. As in, i’m not gonna waste words on you. As in, talk to the hand. As in, fool please. Sure, it’s likely it was not at all how i’m envisioning it, but i’m thinkin’ about crowds surrounding both of ’em, waiting for the better yo’momma joke to come in to play. well… i think it’s funny.

oh & BONUS:  “fomented sedition” (p.882) which means provoked agitation. Who says “fomented sedition”? Peterson does. words are fun – especially the ones i’ve never heard of before.

[One more misc thought about JEREMIAH] i really love how God physically illustrates his points to communicate them, in more than words to Jer. Instead of just sayin’ it like it is, God instructs, Go and buy yourself some linen shorts (p 851) & Go to the potters house (p 864). God doesn’t just use analogies & metaphors — God puts Jeremiah into action to be a part of the comparisons, to feel them; to know them intimately before he announces them to the people. God uses all Jer’s senses – all his being – like God knows Jeremiah’s body&heart, mind-n-soul, just as a Creator knows the creation. how fantastic. That’s masterful teaching, yeah?

At this point, i’m reading ACTS alongside JEREMIAH. i’ve read bits-n-pieces of ACTS but never the whole book. i’m only barely five chapters in and man… #1. i’m jealous. what the heck. i’ve never known a church like the one representin’ in ACTS. it was so pure. so beautiful. absolutely completely beyond my comprehension of human beings in community with one another. #2. for those reasons, i finally get the story of Ananias and Sapphira. Reading that story out of context does not do it any justice. Because the line of events goes like this: Eden — crap it’s Adam & Eve — suffering — suffering — suffering — more suffering x more — a man who happens to be the Son of God dies a horrible cruel death, his blood on our hands — & he is risen & we are forgiven — enter grace — small (in relation to the world) community builds — small Eden grows — o crap; it’s Ananais & Sapphira.

They had something so unbelievably good in the midst of a long history of crap, not to mention a surrounding worldly authority threatening them, when all a sudden two people decide to mess it up with simple poignant dishonesty. The judgement they receive seems harsh. But it’s like a really old tired sick body being made completely clean & new again, only to have a cancer cell show up. i get it.

jeremiah

     every now&then WBER surprises me. On the morning drive in today, they were playing Reliant K’s Be My Escape… not that i knew that’s what it was, until i just looked it up. But i knew i’d heard it before and the lyrics “i gotta get outta here. i’m stuck inside this rut that i fell into by mistake” & “i’m afraid that this complacency is something i can’t shake” made me feel like it was my theme song. It’d be a great song to play on my way out of town this friday. i need a driving mix stat.

     i picked back up reading through the Message Remix again yesterday. i’m in the midst of Jeremiah & Luke. Books of prophecy smackdown are forever tough for me to read. i’m not down with Peterson keeping Isaiah & Jeremiah to be read one after the other. The end of Isaiah was beautiful and easy for me to get through, but now i’m back to the: ‘people are evil scoundrels! whores! off with their heads! insolent punks!’….but i love you. come back. be redeemed by my compassion…. ‘a curse on you fools and all your people! i’m done with you! you experts of evil!’ ….ahh nevermind.

It’s back and forth like that constantly and the way i read scripture (& i dunno… maybe i shouldn’t always take the personal application route) it’s inevitable, i take it to heart. i wrote in the side section yesterday, “i don’t know whether to claim the title of ‘whore’ or ‘forgiven’. it’s maddening.” i can say both can be valid at the same time, but the ‘forgiven’ title has to at some point override the other in order for me to have any peace.

     i understand it’s important to see righteous anger that has built up for ages and that there’s way more context lying beneath the smackdown. i think i get that people had completely turned away and didn’t care about living a life dedicated to God at all anymore…. but even with that understanding, it’s still a beast to read. Even if i haven’t completely turned away; even though i still do wonder how i can honor God with my life, still… there are enough times where i’ve messed up and continue to, that i can’t completely separate myself from righteous judgement. And yet there’s this GRACE thing that blows me away. It will always baffle me. i suppose if there’s anyplace i finally get what it means to “fear the Lord”, i start to feel it reading through Isaiah & Jeremiah. Maybe that’s the point? i just don’t know where to put it next to the concept of grace. That’s nothing new for me to wrestle with tho… what is reverence? What does it look like in this life?