Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Lettuce/Cabbage Incident

Last night, I was at a birthday party at the Bouchon in Yountville, and I told me table companions I would blog about it, so here I am.

First off--the food is excellent. Given there are so many men in my family, I have ended up at quite a few steakhouses in my time, but this steak was excellent--the perfect crunchy crust and tender meat. The default was medium-rare, and lately I have been favoring medium, but I went with the waiter's suggestion, and he was correct. There was a Bearnaise and a garlicky ailoi on the side, and maybe you are supposed to eat those with the steaks, but I enjoyed using those sauces for the chips (fries, for you Americans). Oddly, they too the horseradish off the table, but that might have worked nicely as well.

But what struck me was, behind our table, there was a painting of various objects, with the French terms for the object. Some of them had to do with food, like an egg or a whisk. But not all of them did--there was a boxing glove. And in the bottom left corner, a mysterious green vegetable.

It looked a little bit like a cabbage--in fact, my first thought was that it was a cabbage. But it was also blooming, the leaves unfurling, in the way a lettuce would. Cabbages don't really bloom, after all. So I took a poll of the table, and the reviews were mixed. Some people thought cabbage. Some thought lettuce. So I googled the term le Ribou, as it said under the mysterious vegetable, only the word didn't exist.

And while I don't know much about the French language, I did know that the word for egg was ouef. But the word under the egg was something else. So I called the waiter over to ask about the painting. It turns out, it was surrealism (because of course it is surreal), and the painter wanted to send a message about life. Life sometimes makes sense until you really look at it, much like the painting. It made sense until you started questioning why a boxing glove is on a painting about food, or your realized that the words matched up. You have to look and then you will find the absurd.

To be honest, though, mostly I thought about how if the painter was making their point in a language spoken by a minority--like Spanish or Mandarin--wouldn't that be seen as racist? But you can make the point in French. Hmm.

Anyway, the waiter decided the vegetable was a cabbage, but that is still open for debate if you ever go to the Bouchon. Also, the restaurant had these cute little one ounce bottles of Tabasco sauce, and they gave me a few when I asked if I could keep one that was already opened because it was so tiny and adorable.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - A Retrospective

And I'm done.

47 entries in 47 days. 47 times with God. I don't know if I did the best job with all of my posts; some were better than others, more introspective than others. But I did it, at least.

I think I may have been expecting more? I had hoped, I suppose, that this would signal a massive (good) change in my relationship with God, something new. I had hoped for my faith to be hugely strengthened. I had hoped for a positive change, somehow, and while I got a small change, I don't think it is a major change. Maybe a relationship isn't full of exciting times. But I wanted something exciting! I wanted to make a huge stride with God!

Well, I know it doesn't matter what I want. And Lent, if nothing else, proved that my desires don't matter in the plan of God. But I had hoped....

Things might mostly be the same now. But there might be a small change. I just hope, for now, that it starts something better. Something new. I so desperately want something new.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 16:1-20


I woke up today, and my soul was all a flutter. Maybe it was just me looking forward to a nice meal and family time, maybe it was the thought of protein the rest of the week, and maybe it was Easter. I'd like to think it was Easter. The song Happy Day was in my head, which indicates some sort of excited spiritual happiness.

He is Risen! He is Risen indeed! He is alive!

Mark gives a fairly short account, but I like that it is fairly quick to the point. The Marys and Salome search for him, but He is awake! But He appears to Mary Magdalene, and then others, and after a while goes into Heaven to leave us humans to do the rest. We have inherited what was Jesus': we have inherited that closeness with God and God's parenthood, and we have inherited His job.

It's a big job.

But I don't want to focus on that today. I'm just boggled by the idea of defeating death. He is alive. He is ALIVE. That's incredible, and amazing, and...He died for me, but He rose for me too. The story wasn't over. It was finished, but not the end.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 15:42-47


My brain is all mushy. I'm going to blame lack of meat, because tomorrow...yaaay!

I'm so ready for lent to be over. But that's another blog post.

Joseph takes the body and buries it. On one hand, I feel it proves that Jesus had to be dead. You have centurions proving it, and then Joseph himself. So to people who doubt the Jesus-actually-being dead part of the story, meh. If you're going to trust the story so far, then you have to trust this part too. It's believable.

Mark oesn't go much into the despair at this point, but good grief, the despair--for Mary, for the disciples. And now you're about to sit around for the Sabbath and just think about it for the next twenty four hours. It's going to be a long day.

It is finished, but there's nothing to celebrate yet. Just the finality.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 15:16-41


Thus it goes.

He didn't accept any shortcuts. He didn't take the vinegar. He didn't die easy. He didn't do it in private, where He could scream and cry and be less embarassed. He didn't shy away. He did it. He accepted death.

He thought there was good reason to. And if Jesus thinks it is worth dying for people, then I have to help and love people too. He thought I was worth dying for.

He gave his old family a new family. I got a new family too. He went to God, and I get to go to God too. He did everything.

I could spend pages rhapsodizing about this but honestly, what could I say that hasn't been said? It is finished. The price was paid. I am welcomed back to God because of this. Nothing else really matters.

It is finished, perhaps, but the story isn't. But soon.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 15:1-15


And we go to Pilate.

You can't fight fate, I suppose. That's my one thought from this reading. Jesus doesn't defend himself, even in terms of explaining things. I mean, he's not fighting fate by letting everything happen, but you would think a person could at least verbally defend themself. But Jesus won't even do that. He just accepts what is happening.

It confuses me why Pilate bows to public pressure, though, even from the Jews. He's part of the conquering party, but I guess it must be a much rockier relationship if He isn't willing to go against them regarding this. That, or people are unusually riled up (by the priests--they're the ones who suggest Barabbas, not Jesus). But Pilate still goes along with everything. He even agrees to the crucifixion.

At least our justice system is a little bit better in that regard.

And so we reach the crucifixion. I timed that for Good Friday, but it's always a tough day. Always lots to think about.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:66-73


Oh, Peter.

On one hand, the compassionate side of me feels for him. It's a scary situation. Everything is going down the toilet. But on the other do not deny your friends. You definitely do not deny your God. You never, ever, ever deny your friend who you KNOW is God, and Peter knew. Maybe he was doubting, but still. He knew. More than any of the other disciples, he knew.

Silly Peter.

Also, part of me is annoyed at the servant girl for being so inquisitive, but I am also the sort of person to shake someone down. So I shouldn't really judge her for that either.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:53-65


Everything is more terrible!

So Jesus is put on a little mini-trial, essentially, in front of the priest. And people are making things up, but in the end, Jesus is the one who convinces the high priest of blasphemy when He says that He is the Christ. Which would be blasphemy, except it's, you know, true.

And I get, to a certain extent, the skepticism. The Messiah was supposed to rescue people from the Romans. He was probably supposed to seem a little more Godly and less human. But was Moses particularly special? Any of the patriarchs? On one hand, wouldn't being so unassuming make a ot of sense?

On the other hand, it's hard to believe. If someone came up to me and said they were the Messiah I wouldn't believe them, partly because I believe the Messiah already came, but also because it seems so unlikely. Really? It's you? And you won't do a miracle to prove it in front of me? And all these people are saying you aren't? Like, how can I blame the priest for being skeptical?

Unless there was some sort of God sense. Maybe a gut feeling, that this was wrong. But by the book, I understand the priest. I don't understand the lies people are telling, but I understand the priest.

Which just goes to show, God doesn't work in a logical way.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:32-53


Noooooo everything it about to be terrible now.

1. Disciples (particularly John, James, and Peter): get your act together. If a friend tells you that he is freaking out and please stay awake and pray, then stay awake and pray. This is especially true if that friend is JESUS. Stay awake. Pray. This is what I try to do.

2. Complaining is okay! Jesus was complaining to God. He was asking for the cup to be taken away. He didn't want to be tortured and die. But He was willing. You can complain to God, but you have to be willing regardless. I think that's what is tripping me right now: I really don't want to. And I really don't want to be willing. But if Jesus is willing, then I should be too.

3. Nooooo Judas. Nooooo. Also: betrayal with a kiss? I've thought it before, but that is COLD. A kiss is a sign of affection, or intimacy. It was used horribly. Gah.

4. I've listed to sermons about the streaker. I am still confused about the streaker.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:12-31


Happy Palm Sunday! One more week left of Lent.

In today's passage, we have the Last Supper ahead of Gethsemane. I think that, plus Palm Sunday, plus the fact that I just watched Jesus Christ Superstar to help set the Holy Week mood, has made me a bit morose. It's coming, you know. And the passages aren't pretty and the truth is even worse. It's a ugly thing, this week, which is why it's so important. It's made so beautiful at the end.

But for now, it's just bad.

Looking back on Mark (and maybe it's a bit early to do this), I mostly remember healings. So many healings. Jesus was always healing those that wanted it, need it, or asked for it (and on a few occasions, demanded it). So I can see how Peter would be so positive that yes, he was going to remain true, even though Jesus said that wouldn't be the case. And I can see the disciples would be confused, about the whole part about wine-being-blood and bread-being-flesh. And they would have been able to read the mood, right? Jesus probably wasn't happy or excited. He's about to be panicking and praying in terror next chapter. It would be human to be anxious now. And if the disciples could see that, wouldn't that just make the whole thing worse?

We picture the Last Supper as this calm happy meal, but I can't see it being that way at all. There had to have been this undercurrent of fear, or foreboding, or something. I mean, Judas runs off, so there's already dischord. And in the next, oh, eighteen hours, the world is going to turn upside down for the disciples. It's all going to change.

If they were sensitive, they would feel that coming. It is going to be heartbreaking. You can't even trust yourself at that point--Peter has been told he's going to falter. The last supper must have been awful. Not just a sad last meal with friends, like I've pictured it. It's a tragic meal.

Dunno how that relates to me. Just...whew. It's about to get bad.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 14:1-11


Judas! Don't do it!

Here establishes some priority at least. Better to give to God over giving to people, regardless of need. And while those two often coincide, they don't always. It makes me wonder about times when I give up worship to help others. My church does that once a year, but is it better? Or was the point just that Mary wasn't able to love Jesus in this way for an unlimited amount of time? Praise and worship can happen anytime, but you only have his feet for a limited time.

Well. Maybe that is just semantics. I don't need to worry about that right now. I need to worry about loving God, and then loving people after that. Do both, but not equally. Alright. I can do that.

Six more days without meat! I am HUNGRY.

(edited on 4/9 to correct the title to Mark 14, not 13)

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 13:24-36


Oh, it's the Mad-Eye Moody passage. (Is it sacreligious to say that?)

 Nobody knows, when the end is going to happen. Angels don't know, apostles don't know. I don't know. I would like to think it is in my lifetime, but that's probably the naively stupid part of me. It's going to be some unexpected time. That's the only thing to be sure of, and to be honest, it's not very much to go off of.

So we have to be ready--but ready for what? Revelation doesn't make sense, and even the warnings just imply a general badness. Do I need an emergency kit? Caves with supplies? Or is it just be ready in the sense of spiritually? People who think they will get serious about religion later, I suppose, aren't spiritually ready. Am I spiritually ready?

I have faith. I struggle with trust, but I have faith. And I have God--I really love God, for all of my issues right now. I yell and scream and cry (and I hoped that would stop after six weeks of lenten blogging, but no, not yet), but I love fiercely. In that regard, I am ready.

My earthquake supplies, though, are a little lacking.

I think it's more likely about the spiritual, but I should probably have earthquake supplies ready anyway. I need to have the faith so that, when everyone turns against me (well, more against me), I'm able to stand my ground. Maybe fight. Maybe antagonize. But at least stand my ground, and support that of my spiritual family. I would need to be that, and I think I am. But I can be more.

So I read. I blog. I pray. I go to church. I try. I fight and try. And that's an attempt, at least, to be ready.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 13:1-23


Three more chapters!!!

Another big one--and quite a bit happens in here, almost like a mini-Revelation. The end will be bad! There will be a false prophet! Destruction! Persecution! Baaaad. There's certainly been discussion of persecution, but I think this is the first real discussion of what things are going to be like later (specifically, post-Jesus, but they don't quite know that yet).

It's hard to be a Christian. It's hard to strive for perfection. It's hard to try and be like Jesus, and to figure out what that means. It's exhausting. That was never hidden. I didn't sign up for this life, not knowing what it was going to be like. The disciples knew. Jesus knew. I know.

I just have to persevere.

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 12:41-44


Widow's mite!

I feel I often interpret this passage somewhat wrong. I like numbers. My first love is always words, but I still love flirting with numbers on occasion (this sounds weirder than it is). So I see this story, and my brain goes, "Aha! It is not about amount--it's about the ratio of how much you have to give. Percentages! MUST GIVE MORE PERCENT."

But that isn't strictly true. Even if I look at the widow giving 100% (which is always what God wants, just sometimes in different ways) and the rich giving a smaller percentage, I'm missing the meaning. Tithing is 10%, but if you just cut off ten percent, you're still doing it wrong. It's all about how much you are trusting God, I guess. Will you put your money where your mouth is?

And I don't think that means you should give up your savings account, unless that's what you have been asked to do. Yes, the widow trusted God, but she still had less. A cent isn't going to do too much; two cents won't even do that much, so why not give up your cent? Maybe I'm thinking about this too logically again. But it's easy for me to give up, say, smoking as a testimony to God, because I haven't smoked, don't want to smoke, and have asthma so I don't really want to make my lungs worse. It's harder to give up something you have more of, too.

Maybe that's not the best example. But it's easy to throw a quarter in the offering because you can't do too much with it, even if that's all you have. Or my mind tells me that. Maybe that's more a sign of my privilege than anything else. And it's easier to trust God when there's nothing else left to rely on. That part I'm sure about.

But regardless of that, we celebrate the widow. It seemingly doesn't matter how hard it is for you to trust God--what matters is whether you do. Hmm. This is not my strongest suit, but I don't think it's because I'm rich. Maybe I was entirely wrong above...

(Also, yes, another post after midnight. TBH, I'm surprised I've only done this a handful of times.)

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 12:13-40


Looooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooong passage tonight.

The Pharisees try to cause Jesus to give a bad answer, and He doesn't falter. The laws are all different--laws about money (and local government), laws about family, and laws about God. And Jesus always gets it right.

See, here I always think that testing God is wrong. The Pharisees aren't doing it right. But then, didn't Jesus test the disciples? So what is it? I mean, Jesus does answer these test, and I think they are all important answers. We often refer about how we are to give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Those answers are actually really important.

And they also show that the old law is gone. We're entering a new covenant, a new way to live with God. So maybe Jesus isn't upset about the questioning as much here. I mean, He doesn't like the lack or trust or that the Pharisees are trying to trap Him. I think the ending, where He mentions condemnation for the scirbes and hypocrites, is a clear grumpiness with the Pharisees. So it's still not good, to test.

Gah. Today has been a crazy day, and my brain is mushy. That's all I can think of now. Nighty night.

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 12:1-12


Another warning!

I think I've mentioned this before--I get that the disciples, or any of the people, didn't understand what Jesus was saying. It wouldn't make sense, especially after the welcome Jesus just got coming into Jerusalem. I mean, yes, of course, there were people who didn't like him (see: Pharisees), but it would seem that Jesus was enormously popular. Why would they think that the tide would change, and so quickly at that?

Group think + Satan = Baaaaaaaaad

God likes code. He likes to tell us things we can't always understand. Why is that? I don't know...maybe so we meditate on it and really have to think about things? The wonderful thing about scripture is that it is written down, so it is perfect for analysis. The disciples only heard things, but even then, it must have struck a chord for them to remember it all and write it down decades later. We have to think.

We need God to understand God, on a certain level. Maybe that's the point? To seek Him more?

I don't know. What would have happened if Jesus was more explicit? The disciples still wouldn't understand, maybe. Or maybe they would have tried to prevent things. In books, at least, when a character knows something is coming, they either ignore the warning or try to prevent it and it never works (see: Macbeth). People are probably the same way as in fiction, and Jesus didn't want this to be prevented.

So maybe that is why.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 11:15-33


Lots to discuss today!

First off: Jesus is gonna wreck the temple. Well, the people trying to profit from the temple, I suppose. There's sort of an equivalent now, with people who venture into religious endeavors for monetary purposes. I don't know if being a Christian bookseller or something like that is the issue, but instead being something directly tied with the church. Like a church the demands money, maybe? That seems more like the equivalent. I don't think selling Christian books or, I don't know, Christian musicians are the issue. Those are associated with salvation. Churches are.

And you can't trust a super fancy church, IMO.

Moving on: the fig tree died! Jesus hates figs. Which brings up the verse I am having the most trouble with, regarding faith and trust, I suppose. If you pray to God and trust it, it will be answered--it will be granted. Which prickles me because all I can think of are unanswered prayers...

Didn't I trust? I thought I did, once. I'm pretty sure I did. I was so sure, ten years ago, that God would come through. I trusted that I had a happy ending. And now...He hasn't come through. My trust has ebbed. Why? Because it's not at my speed? I don't know if getting what you want one second to midnight counts as really granting something, though. That seems like a technicality.

If God wanted me to be happy, I would be happy. If God wanted me to be married, I would be married. That's how it works. And I can pray and pray and assume it will come true, but God's shown zero interest in making any of that true. So why assume it? I don't know if it works. But all scripture is true. So it should work. Am I mis-reading the passage? Granted seems like it is an affirmative word, but maybe it just means answered--answered as in yes or no, not granted as in, well, granted.

I dunno. I'm struggling with it.

Also, Jesus doesn't always give answers. The disciples failed the test, and so Jesus didn't answer. Proof that we get tested, if nothing else.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 11:1-14


Oof, we are at Easter week!

First thought: Huh, those people are very happy to get rid of their colt. I cant understand why they were indignant initially. IF someone was going to take my car, I'd be annoyed. And if they then told me it was "for the Lord"? I would roll my eyes and tell them still no.

So why would these people give it up? I guess there was some sort of divine intervention. Maybe if I really felt that God needed it. But I think that I would need to really, really feel it. And that doesn't feel like it is a lack of God. It feels like being practical.

But I guess that practicality can be the nemeses of God? Like, it's practical to do things myself, not to sit around trusting God. I need to do things. God doesn't feel like a practical choice. But here I am, attempting to follow God anyway. It doesn't feel like it is doing anything. It's been a month of lent, an I don't feel like I'm closer to God, even though I've been reading the Bible every day and blogging about it.

I guess it comes down to faith. Faith about whether God is asking for your colt, faith about whether God is making a difference anyway, faith about whether God is practical. So I suppose this proves that I have faith, as did the owners of the colt.

But is it the kind like the crowd, which will change in just a few days? Maybe the colt owner's changed. I'm determined, though. I don't want my faith to change. I want it to grow. That's another reason why I am going to keep on reading, and blogging (at least through lent, anyway). Faith!

Also, Jesus doesn't like figs.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 10:46-51


I feel like we have been in Mark 10 for forever.

Anyway. Bartimaeus gets his sight back, so: another healing! And again, he has to ask, and yell, to be heard. So I guess you have to be loud, sometimes, to be heard by God. To scream. To really push God because He will ignore you otherwise.

Am I being harsh on God? I mean, He is ignoring if He doesn't give you a yes or no. In this instance, Jesus might not have been able to physically hear Bartimaeus, but He's also God. He knew that Bartimaeus wanted His sight back. He knew Bartimaeus was yelling out. Surely He knew that Bartimaeus really, really wanted his sight, to the point where he would keep on yelling out for help. Maybe God wanted proof, but Bartimaeus was proven persistent enough. So why make him keep yelling?

Why make anyone keep on asking, and asking, and asking? Either they are going to give up because they are weakened or don't want something very much, or they are going to keep on going. What's the point in proving the difference if God already knows the difference? It would be one thing if God didn't want to heal, but Jesus did. Jesus has been healing tons of people. Why does it have to be so much effort?

It doesn't make sense to me.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 10:35-45

Okay, I admittedly was somewhat half-hearted yesterday. I’ll do better today.

So. James and John have a lot of gumption in this passage, I suppose. I mean, I guess you need to ask at some point. But still. I don’t think I would ask God for that, because He knows all of my faults and flaws better than I do, so He would know how completely unworthy I am of that position. James and John are kind of conceited to ask for it. Do they really think that they have been that superior to the other disciples, let alone everyone else?

And then they say that they are able to handle what Jesus is going to go through, or to handle following Him. Which is sort of true, since Jesus doesn’t dismiss it. It reminds me of being a naïve kid and thinking I could handle anything God would throw at me, because my faith was strong and pure and limitless! Of course, God knows exactly where in the gut it would hurt most to punch. Stupid naïve Christine, asking to prove her faith. Stupid naïve James and John here.

So of course the other disciples are going to feel indignant. The second part, though, I think goes more into the idea of what is a leader: a person who serves. Which isn’t as easy to be as it is so to be said. I mean, politicians say all the time that they try to serve the public—you can even call them civil servants—but they’re also voting for their pay increases and pensions. That isn’t a true leader. A servant isn’t getting paid the most.

It’s how I would appreciate leadership in a job setting. I think Richard Branson (in secular terms) one said that to manage, he takes care of his employees, because they will in turn take care of the clients. I think that’s sort of the crux of servant leadership. Taking care of those you are supervising; assisting them, helping them, training them. They will do the work in turn. That’s the sort of boss I would want to work for, and the sort of boss I would want to be.

And that’s probably the best sort of community leader, too. Working to serve the community so they can be a community. It’s the back seat, and it isn’t glorious, but it’s the most effective way to lead. It’s not about bossing people around. It’s about helping people so they can do the right thing.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 10:32-34

Another short passage! Yay.

We are getting to the serious part of Lent, I guess. And Jesus is warning the disciples but they aren't understanding it which makes me wonder: what is God telling me that I'm not understanding?

I dunno.  I guess I'm not understanding until the end of everything.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 10:17-31


Hmm. There's a lot here.

It's weird that Jesus says he isn't good...oh, well, I suppose he doesn't say that. He is confused at how the man knows that He is good--and thus, God. Alright. that part makes a bit more sense.

I guess, here is someone a bit like me. He has faith in God--He knows that Jesus is God, after all. But there's no trust. The rich young ruler doesn't trust that he will be okay without his earthly things. He can't give everything up and follow God because he has so much to begin with.

Am I that way? I think I trust a little bit more, at least. I am following up. I'm willing to give everything up. I'm kicking and screaming about it (at least a little bit). I'm angry about it. But I'm technically doing it. I could have my heart in it a bit more, but I am, at the end of the day, trying to follow God. I'm just terrified about everything I am giving up.

But then, I'm worried about the emotional things I'm giving up, and I wasn't that emotionally rich to begin with. So I'm not a camel going through the eye of a needle. I'm a camel going down a...big needle thingy. Let's say a highway overpass. Camel going through a highway overpass.

So I guess I should be getting emotional riches come heaven? Ooh. That sounds nice. I like that.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 10:13-16


Woot, short passage!

I mean, it's a fairly simple one, I think, which means that I have to really pay attention. The kingdom of God belongs to children, or people like children. I guess that means...innocent? The people who see the world in black and white? The people who find it so easy (for the most part) to trust God and feel it will all work out?

Ha. I used to be that last one, I think.

But there is something about that wide-eyed wonder, that simple acceptance of everything, that I think is important. I think I could, when entering Heaven, be excited like a kid in a candy story. I could want to run up to God and give him a hug. I could be the little kid again, because I've kept in touch with my childlike side pretty well.

But there's part of me that's old, and bitter, and so angry about everything. There's part of me that hates anyone who still has that childlike appreciation for God because they are so stupid and easily content. Why aren't they actually doing any good work instead of selfishly living so satisfied? There's things to do! Stop living in your rose-tinted world and get out!

Ugh. I hate people like that. And I guess I'm supposed to be one. Deny myself again...

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 10:1-12


I have done a lot of meditating on this passage today.

On one hand, this doesn't apply to me. It can apply to advice I give to other people, or to other covenants I make (either with God or with other people), but basically, it doesn't apply to me yet. I'm not married.

But then again...I am a single, educated, upper-20s Christian female. Most of the Bible wouldn't apply to me unless I analyze it. So maybe I should take this as instructions for any sort of commitment. And I do try to keep my commitments. I honor my Bible study by arriving on time and preparing. I honor the people I work with by doing the work I'm assigned. I honor the people I work for (in a volunteer-y sense) by showing up, energized and ready to work. I honor God by trying to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength, and then loving my neighbour as myself. Do I fail? Yes. But I try. I try to keep these commitments. And maybe I'm not in a covenant-y relationship like marriage, but I'm trying to keep them as I would keep a covenant-y relationship.

Are there reasons to leave? Yes. But it's clear that Jesus doesn't think much of them. It is because of the hardness of humans that we had to be given the option of divorce (and I would say that the hardness of humans extends to times such as abuse--meaning that it's the hardness of the abuser that we have to be given the option of divorce). Most reasons aren't good enough to leave.

And leave the commitments I have isn't exactly like a divorce. I wouldn't say that, say, quitting my job is breaking my commitment. Providing notice and leaving in a fair way (paying back any signing bonus or whatnot) is honourable. That's the difference between the commitments I have and marriage, I guess. I can leave.

But I don't, which you think would prove that I'm marriageable material. But evidently God doesn't think so. Anyway. Keep commitments. Keep on keeping my commitments. Got it. Moving on.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 9:38-29


This passage is entitled DIRE WARNINGS, which certainly makes you sit up and listen.

I think this passage really does follow up with what we have yesterday. We have reference to the children again, but also a reminder that you are either for or against God. There is no third front. You can't choose to not be involved. I think some people think that the default is for God, which this passage doesn't actually deny. It just says who causes little ones to stumble are, well, damned.

Now, I think if you choose to be apathetic you're choosing against God, and certainly the Bible says that at other points. You have to choose forgiveness, choose God, or else the default is against God. And even the "good" rhetoric in our society kind of leans kids against God. We're so busy telling each other not to yuck someone's yum that you can't really evangelize unless someone asks. Maybe it was like that back in Rome as well, but in any case, the idea of the default choice being negative isn't one that our society would like to believe.

Although, if the default was to choose God, I can't imagine our society would be anything like this. But that's beside the point.

The salt thing is a bit more confusing. Salt as a preservative, maybe--through fire, we will be preserved? Salt as bring out flavor--through fire, we will become more flavorful? Stronger? Actually, both of those would be good things. Hmm. Maybe this salt analogy is better than I give credit for. I don't think I'm interpreting it correctly, though.

Also: I should start telling people to "have salt in themself".

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 9:30-37


Wheee, short passage tonight!

There's really two half to this one. First of all, Jesus foretells his death (and resurrection) again. It's an interesting phrasing. He will be delivered into the hands of men. I mean, it may have been phrased like this last time, but I'm finding it interesting this time. It sort of takes God out of the equation. Men will be able to do with Jesus what they want, and guess what that is? Men want to kill Jesus.

And sin is, sort of, killing God? I mean, it's ignoring God, sometimes. Sometimes it's trying to fight against God. Sometimes it's trying to do what you want instead of what God wants. But it's always opposing God in some way. But I guess what I'm thinking of is, when mankind can do with God what they want, they want no God--which, in earthly terms, means killing God. And sure enough, when God doesn't fight back, when God lets mankind does what it wants, that means man gets to kill God.

Of course, joke is on them, because that just lets people get delivered from sin, doesn't it? It's such an elegant solution to sin. I mean, it's terrible, and I would rather it not need to happen. But part of me thinks it's a kind of beautiful solution? Poetic. Am I allowed to say that? Hmm.

Anyway. Part two of the passage is Jesus and the children. The whole receiving children being receiving God reminds me a bit about the verse (I can't remember where) about helping angels on accident. (Oh, I looked it up--Hebrews 13:2.) I guess it's all sort of the same. Whenever you do something loving, you're doing that to Jesus--which means, to God.

It's interesting, to think of all the ways I volunteer, and picture doing that to God. But it makes me take it a bit more seriously? And the things you do to friends, as well. Basically, you should always behave and love, because you do that to God in turn--either good or bad.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 9:14-29


This passage made me think back to the whole faith vs. trust issue.

Here we see a father, who says if Jesus could help him, please would he. This father is lacking in faith; he doesn't know, for sure, if Jesus could banish the spirit, especially since the disciples were already unable to do so. This makes Jesus grumpy (or as grumpy as we ever see him, anyway), because the man doesn't believe that Jesus can. The issue is one of faith--but not, it seems, of trust. The man seems confident that if Jesus could, he would--the phrase "take pity and help us" seems almost like a dare. The man trusts Jesus would; he doesn't seem sure if he can.

My problem is the opposite. I'm more the person begging on the sides. I know Jesus can cast out the demons, can heal the sick, can do...well, anything. My issue is more if Jesus would for me. I think that's more an issue of trust, not of faith, since I'm not doubting the power of God. I'm doubting the character of God.

Which on one hand, seems silly. Jesus has not turned anyone away. Any time someone asks him for help, they have received it. Perhaps it is because the things they are asking for--a cure from leprosy, or a demon to be cast out, or some food so they won't starve on the way home--are related to needs over wants. I don't see anyone begging Jesus for something to make them happy. I can think of Old Testament stories like that--pretty much every woman who asked for a child comes to mind immediately--but not really any in the New Testament.

And God has provided for my needs well. I have a good job, which trained me a solid career. I have a lovely little apartment. I have a church that, while full of humans, is a good church. I can afford to live and take a vacation and do things I enjoy. If my life was to continue on the next forty years this way, it would be a good life. Boring, perhaps, but good. This is why I think I'm too demanding when I complain about the things I don't have: God has granted me a good life.

But it's a stationary life. I'm bored. I want the change that everyone else gets. I want to be able to move, and marry, and have kids, and have seasons again. I have lost my ability to have seasons. Is that a need? Is that necessary? No. Absolutely not. I can live a good life as is. I just don't want my life to forever be as is. I'm not ungrateful for what I have. I just want to know this isn't all I'm getting. I want change. If I knew it was coming, I would be so much happier.

But I'm supposed to deny myself and take up my cross. And a life like this, even if it doesn't change, isn't much of a cross really. I'll be hit with envy from all sides, and probably fatigue, but it's not going to be that bad. Denying myself, not allowing myself to change, is going to be difficult. But when all is said and done, I probably have it easy.

I believe God could grant me change. I just don't think he will. And Jesus isn't going around fixing people's lives to make them happier, so I should just shut up and be satisfied as is. Enjoy my volunteering and general productivity. Sigh about the lack of change, but know that I'm at least not becoming a insufferable married person. Silver linings, I suppose.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 9:1-13


Well, one question answered today, at least a little bit. Jesus specifies not to tell anyone until the Son of Man comes back from the dead, which is a pretty decent code as far as codes go. I don't read that as applying to everything, but at least for today, I think the disciples did as they were told regarding keeping secrets.

Today's passage seems to focus more on the divinity of Jesus. We see Jesus meeting with Elijah and Moses, who are two of the more important Jewish prophets, and He's in "God clothing" and gets another shout out from God. Jesus, at least in retrospect, seems to pretty clearly be from God. Peter already knew for sure, but now James and John had to feel pretty certain about something Messianic, right? There's some favor from God, more than we hear from Moses or Elijah. Both of them may have met with God, but Jesus is the only person who gets praised by God.

I don't really understand that last part, though, about how the Son of Man negates Elijah (the word "yet" is particularly confusing). I mean, prophets were told about the Messiah. So unless the Elijah-coming-first part references that Elijah saw everything unfold as it does, and Elijah's coming was actually time traveling paradoxical wibbly-wobby timey-wimey stuff, it doesn't make sense. I mean, it doesn't need to, I guess. Elijah came. Jesus came. Elijah technically came back in this passage. Maybe that is what is meant.

Anyway. Jesus is God. I knew this. Moving on.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lenten Devotionals - Mark 8:27-37

Well, this is heavy.

So we start off with Peter acknowledging Christ, but being told not to tell anyone about this. Which, again, seems weird in comparison to today’s culture. There must be a reprieve at some point, a change in Jesus’ instruction, but I can’t recall when that is. I suppose I’ll find out in a few weeks.

And we are getting closer. I think is the first crucifixion reference in Mark; if not, it’s one of the first This was said plainly, but I don’t think it takes into account that nobody is really going to believe Jesus at this point. People were expecting the Messiah to defeat Rome, and they were expecting Jesus to live a long life given that He was so popular and evidently so powerful. These are reasonable assertions, all things considered, but God had bigger plans than that.

But then we get to the meat of the matter. We have to deny ourselves to follow Christ. And after last night, my initial thought is that I have to deny my wants and desires for Christ. I need to deny those desires to follow God. There doesn’t seem to be a loophole about whether they are good desires, though. I might want good things—marriage, children, fostering kids, a house with room for all of this, a supportive community around me, and to be a writer because I can be a writer and manage all of these things—but God doesn’t specify that.

I want to be good. That can’t be what is meant by denying yourself, is it? My internet isn’t working too well, so I can’t look up the root word for denying yourself, but I would think denying yourself should have to do more with self-control. Oh, now it’s working—let’s see. I guess it could be more with self-control. It does literally mean to deny, but here’s also a definition that means to affirm that you have no acquaintance, and then another to forget one’s self (including interests). That’s a harsh form of deny. That’s not merely self control.

Take up your own cross and all of that. Give up your wants, never mind if that’s what makes you you. Don’t your wishes and dreams inform who you become? I don’t know. But here’s proof, I suppose, that God doesn’t care about what I want. So I suppose all that matters, then, is whether I want Him, and the answer to that is yes. Oh.