Sunday, January 1, 2012

Another year over. A new one just begun.



"But there will be no darkness for those who were in trouble. Earlier he did bring the lands of Zebulun & Naphtali into disrepute, but the time is coming when he'll make that whole area glorious - the road along the sea, the country past the Jordan, international Galilee.

The people who walked in darkness
have seen a great light.
For those who lived in the land of deep shadows -
light! Sunbursts of light!
You repopulated the nation,
you expanded joy.
Oh, they're so glad in your presence!
Festival joy!
The joy of celebration,
sharing rich gifts and warm greetings.
The abuse of oppressors and cruelty of tyrants -
all their whips and cudgels and curses -
is gone, done away with, a deliverance
as surprising & sudden as Gideon's old victory over Midian.

For a child has been born - for us!
The gift of a son - for us!
He'll take over
the running of the world.
His names will be: Amazing Counselor,
Strong God,
Eternal Father,
Prince of Wholeness,
His ruling authority will grow,
and there'll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
He'll rule from the historic David throne
over that promised kingdom.
He'll put that kingdom on a firm footing
and keep it going
with fair dealing and right living,
beginning now and lasting always.
The zeal of God-of-the-Angel-Armies
will do all this."
Isaiah 9 (Message Bible)




Yeah, I know it's January 1st and that Christmas was last Sunday. Still, if you are apart of the Orthodox tradition then Christmas isn't for another week. So if I want to post another Christmas carol, I can...so there.



So, 2011 is finally over. An interesting year, to be sure.

Osama bin Laden is dead, but the wars continue. Officially, or course, the war in Iraq is over. We liberated a country from the grip of a tyrant, and are now leaving it a bastion sectarian instability on the verge of a civil war. The cost? Well, tens upon tens upon tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians obviously don't count. But as far as America is concerned, almost 5000 service people are dead. Between both Iraq and Afghanistan it is estimated that at least 300,000 vets now have PTSD and another 320,000 have traumatic brain injuries.

Not bad, considering we put it all on a credit card and sunk the country a couple trillion dollars in the hole.

Actually, now that I think about it, it's a really good thing that we put it all on a credit card. I mean, I completely agree with the sage & wise advice of the now convicted felon, Rep. Tom Delay of Texas, when he said; "Nothing is more important in war time than tax cuts." Asking the wealthiest to sacrifice for their country is virtually treasonous. If they had to pony up some dough, they wouldn't be able to create all of the millions of new jobs that we now have in this robust economy of ours.

God bless those Bush era tax cuts for all of the prosperity that we now enjoy!

It makes me want to run out and elect another Texan to the Oval Office so we can enjoy even more guidance like that. Hopefully, who ever gets into office will remember the names of the various departments they wish to cut. Whatever happens, be sure to make the most needy & vulnerable the ones who pay the highest price. In America, if you can't pull yourself up by your own bootstraps, you must be punished!

Oh yeah, speaking of elections, tomorrow is Iowa's massive Comic-con convention. Numerous cartoon characters will vie for the Republican endorsement on this glorious day in the hopes of battling our cerebral & largely ineffective President for his throne. My own locally grown lunatic forgot her meds and has been touring all the counties in Iowa in the hopes that someone will care.

As it turns out, someone did care. Mz. Bachmann's Iowa campaign chairman defected to the Ron Paul camp. Such is politics.

Such was life in 2011. I'm not sure in this year will be much better.


I found out this past week that a friend of mine is leaving for Afghanistan tomorrow. I'm not %100 sure where he will be serving, but from what I could tell he will most likely be enjoying the fabled hospitality of not only the Taliban and whatever is left of Al-Qaeda, but also the Haqqani Network. (Think of them as a death cult with deep family ties.) The best part is that my friend knows he is going to a war that we have already lost. We lost it back in 2003 when we left for Iraq. Now we're just keeping the lights on until a proper civil war can break out upon our departure.

I'm not exactly happy about this. I'm not exactly happy about any of the above. At least when I'm cranky, I can use humor to vent.

I've been really tired lately. This whole past week was one in which I never felt like I fully woke up. Last night it rained and then froze...and then a layer of snow was added. All in time for the midnight revelry of New Years. Not to fret, I worked last night...because that's how I like to spend my swinging New Years Eve. Yee-HAW!


I can't say that I like to start off the new year feeling crabby and beat. It could be the weather. Gloom is not good for me. But it could also be that combined with the ups & downs of last year AND the less-than optimistic news that seems to rung through the entire year.


I seem to spend most of my conscious hours thinking about God. Not necessarily your God, nor the god of most people's...or that of many who call themselves "Christians." No, I am talking about the God that reveals himself in the bible. (Not to be confused with the tame, domesticated, Americanized mid-western god that feels like either a wooden bat or a squishy marsh mellow that most...including the majority of "Christians" in this country have.) Nope. I'm talking about the God who frustratingly chooses only to reveal as much about himself as he wants in the bible. It makes me nuts!

I've been reading through "The Story," http://www.thestory.com/home, which is essentially the bible tweeked so that it reads more like a proper narrative, with portions shortened and different books and passages smooshed together. (I'm certain it will give King James Only-ists numerous fits & seizures.) I've been thoroughly enjoying it. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the narratives in the Old Testament. I finished chapter 17 this morning, and am about to read the story of Daniel.

For some reason I easily relate to the various prophets. They experienced God in ways that I truly long for in the deepest parts of my being. My frustration with God is that while he can be so present, he can also feel so silent and distant at the very same time. The more I read the bible...and the times that I really and truly do experience God profoundly and in less-than-normal ways, I find myself more & more confused about God.

Not that I doubt YHWH in any way.
It's just that he confuses me.

I can fully understand why people have a hard time with a good deal of the bible. Sometimes God seems almost bi-polar when you compare the Old Testament to the New Testament. But then you hear Jesus...gentle, meek, loving Jesus make some brutal pronouncements. In fact, Jesus talked about hell more than anyone...and he usually directed it towards people who were following him. At the same time, God in the Old Testament makes some incredibly beautiful & gentle statements towards people who fully deserved a kick in the crotch. Like I said, confusing.

Then you get the parts of the bible that people take literal when they should see it as allegory & such. Never mind the human tendency to yank things out of context. Worst of all, there are parts of the bible who's cultural context seems to have been lost for good. (Which really doesn't help matters.)

Having said all of that, the majority of the bible is self-explanatory. It seems also, that when it comes to the hard parts, God doesn't really care if "We" have issues with it. He never apologizes for things like that or for who he is. He also never apologizes for being confusing in how much he lets us understand about HIM.

While that drives me nuts, there is also a certain level of comfort in that. I'm not sure I would want to follow a God who could be understood. I would prefer to experience this God. The problem is that I can't just drive over and hang out with him at the coffee shop. It's not that YHWH owes me anything to begin with. But the desire to feel him, to experience him is totally natural...I hope.


Back to the various prophets.

When I read the prophets it's pretty difficult not to notice that all of them spoke of a future hope for God's people. The prophets seemed to be most numerous and busiest during the worst time for Israel. The people were being unfaithful jerks. The times were shaky at best, both economically, politically and diplomatically. (Sound like today.) But they all spoke of a time when God's kingdom would be here in full, and everything would be set to rights.

The Aztecs have that goofy calendar that ends in 2012. A lot of people are a bit perplexed by it. I just tend to agree with the cartoon at the top. Still, there is a large part of me that hopes the Aztecs were on to something. I would love to see Jesus set up full residency today.

All war would be over. There would be no more weak & fallible politicians trashing each other as they try to climb to the top of the dung heap. No more greedy corporations exploiting the people at the bottom so that the top can get obscene bonuses. No more pollution. No more hunger. No more "Want" of any kind.

And my friend would not be leaving for Afghanistan tomorrow.


He who testifies to all these things says it again: "I'm on my way! I'll be there soon."

Yes! Come, Master Jesus!
The grace of the Master Jesus be with all of you. Oh, Yes!
Rev. 22:20 & 21


Happy New Year



Peace

Joe

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