Tag Archive: Old Testament

Pretzels Dont PourTo begin at the beginning, in case you didn’t know, pretzels don’t pour. To which you might reply with “who would expect them to?” Well, I would. In case you haven’t noticed, the bags that pretzels come in are considerably more fragile than regular chip bags. Regardless of how careful you are, if you are lucky enough to open it without tearing it down the side, the second time you reach in for more pretzels (again carefully) a jagged tear will appear.

The tear is always such that any further handling of any sort will cause the bag to begin the various stages of disintegration. When it happened again the other day, I grabbed a quart size baggie and attempted – for the umpteenth time – to pour pretzels into a baggie. At first, they poured as easy as stick-shaped objects can. Then they began to catch on the curled up edges of the pretzel bag.

I tried to gently jerk the bag to coax the pretzels into falling into the baggie. At which time the bag began to give way further, sending pretzels onto the counter and – to my chagrin – a few onto the floor. The more I tried to be careful, the faster the bag fell apart. I ended up having to pick handfuls of pretzels off of the counter and put them in the baggie. Which worked only a tad better than trying to pour them out of the bag.

I finally got the pretzels into the baggie. Minus, of course, the few that fell onto the floor. But not without some serious consternation on my part. A major cause of the consternation was the fact that I saw it coming. But even though I saw it coming there was little I could do to alter the circumstances.

And that is one of my pet peeves – I firmly believe that you can have more than one. When I see a situation coming in which I’m sure things will go awry, it ticks me off. I sometimes think I’m daring the situation to prove me wrong for a pleasant change of pace. Then, by God, it goes awry just like I thought it would. Which ticks me off even more.

I have other pet peeves as I’m sure you do. People refer to someone’s pet peeve. As if there is only one peeve and that one is the pet or favorite. It sounds as if it is special rather than a pain in the ass.

I’m sure God has quite a few pet peeves. The Old Testament illustrates a few. Breaking a commandment is a safe bet to touch on the real favorites. That is, if you equate “pet” with good or favorite.

But at the same time, God is forgiving. While I can be forgiving, I’m not as forgiving as I should be. If I was, it wouldn’t bother me as much that pretzel bags tend to disintegrate as one is simply getting another small handful of pretzels. It wouldn’t bother me that pretzels don’t pour. And when I can tell someone is going to do something stupid, I would forgive them ahead of time. Unfortunately, I’m not that forgiving. But I’m working on it.

Peace be with you.

The bird in the window was about half the size of this bird.

We had a small visitor at our old house. She spent most of the day outside each of our sons’ rooms going in rotation to all three windows. Cyndy and I thought at first it was a Finch, but Cyndy decided it was a female cardinal. I have large hands and could probably hold the bird in a loose fist without any part of the bird showing. I do not know much about birds, but I do know that this particular bird had the common sense of a tree trunk.

She began to visit in the early afternoon after lunchtime. Which is one of my main reflecting and writing times so the intrusion was quite unwelcome, at least at first. I mistakenly took the sound to be our dog, Misty, scratching at the window trying to get out at a squirrel. But the tapping was more melodic and deliberate and did not result in the harder thump that our medium-sized dog would make as she hit the wall.

The first sudden tap made me jump, expecting to hear glass hit the wood floor at any moment. Less than three minutes later, another tap. Sometimes it would stop for as long as five minutes, leading me to believe it had ceased. But sure enough, as soon as I started working again – another tap. I realized Misty was laying on the floor in front of the my desk so she could not be making the sound. Then I heard a deeper, heavier noise follow the tap, as if someone had thrown a rubber ball at the window.

I went down the hall quietly and stood in the doorway of Conner’s room at the front corner of the house. The bird was standing in the middle of the window sill of the window facing the side of the house. She would look at the window, look around the side yard, then back at the window. Then, suddenly, she would tap the window hard with her beak – as if she had forgotten it was there, or just to be sure she had not been wrong the first five times. It was also entirely possible that she had tapped her beak so hard she had rattled her brains.

Then, in between periods of tapping, so suddenly it made me jump, she backed up a step and flung her little four inch, 20 ounce body against the window as hard as she could. Only appearing to be dazed for a few seconds, she flew around in a small circle and landed back on the window. She looked at the window for a few minutes, looked around a bit, and the whole cycle began again. I stood transfixed, thinking surely she would not do it again. But sure enough, after a series of taps, she backed up and body-slammed the window.

I leaned against the doorframe and watched for a while. Either the bird was so daft that neither thought nor pain registered in her small brain or she was so stubbornly persistent that constant failure was not enough for her to give up her task, whatever it was. Regardless, her task was a painful and fruitless one. Stubborn persistence can sometimes be beneficial, but more often than not it is simply detrimental.

While I thought the bird’s actions were ridiculously naive and mistaken, they reminded me of our stubborn persistence in not listening to what the Lord is telling us. Rather than having faith and trusting in God, we insist on looking for an easier way. Which actually turns out to be more difficult in the long run.

We have a chance to fly free, as it were, and explore all that the Lord’s world has to offer. Yet we insist on constantly tapping on the glass representing the things that we think we want or should have, but would never give us the fulfillment we long for. In our stubborn persistence we “body-slam” the glass, throwing our entire body into the refusal to accept what is before us. But,  as if that is not enough, we turn right around and start the whole process over again.

Like the Israelites of the Old Testament, we keep giving in to our temptation to slip back into sinful ways. We begin to find excuses to not read the Bible, pray or attend church or volunteer regularly. When life is going okay, we’re too busy for God. Then, when tragedy strikes, we wonder where God is – when, in fact, he has been there all along.

After God saves the day, yet again, and life returns to normal, we begin the insistent tapping all over again. We need to have faith in God, trust in his mercy, accept the grace he freely offers, and strive to live the way we were taught to live by Jesus. What is on the other side of the glass is ultimately unimportant.

Peace be with you.

“(JSB* – “And lo, the Lord passed by.”) “Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.”NRSV – (“a soft murmuring sound.”*)

A week ago last Sunday, our pastor, Kenny Dickson, gave a sermon on 1 Kings 19:1-18. He relayed the story of Ahab, Jezebel, and Elijah. Concerning the above passage, he concluded that God was in the silence and it is in times of silence that we can hear the Lord the loudest. I thoroughly enjoyed his sermon, but while the lay reader was reading the scripture, verses 11 and 12 brought a thought to my mind that deserved returning to at a later time. Which would be now.

With all the disasters that have occurred in the past couple of years, the question – does God bring or cause disasters? – has come up on considerably more than one occasion. I think the two verses above not only play a significant role in Elijah’s story, but also answer the question of “where is God” when natural disasters occur. The term natural is deceptive, not duly taking into account the effect of the human race on the planet. Either way, it refers to the actions of nature over the course of time. But when disasters occur, God is not sitting on a golden throne causing the destruction of his creation to unfold.

I find it interesting that the Jewish Study Bible (JSB) begins the second half of verse 11 – after God tells Elijah to come out of the cave and “stand on the mountain before the Lord” – with “And lo, the Lord passed by.” Without this sentence, the NRSV translation seems to imply that God is not present until the “sound of sheer silence.” Conversely, the JSB translation says “There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the Lord…” implying that the Lord was the ultimate cause. The NRSV indicates that the great wind came “before the Lord,” intimating that the Lord was not the cause, just an observer.

On the surface, as far as the plot is concerned, the mighty wind, the earthquake, and the fire – even the sheer silence – are unnecessary. Elijah gave God the same answer to his question “Why are you here?” both before and after the four examples of nature’s force. The sheer silence immediately following the violence of the earth was a sudden, terrifying silence – not knowing what might come next. But in verse 13 we learn that Elijah did not emerge from the cave until “hearing” the sheer silence or upon hearing the soft murmuring sound.

The passage does not give any indication as to whether Elijah was coming out of the cave before the mighty display of nature or not. Certainly he would have stayed in the cave when the “storms” began, regardless. Then, as is stated, he “wrapped his face in his mantle” and walked to the cave entrance. And God asks him the same question. To which, as we have said, Elijah gives the same answer. Then the Lord tells Elijah how to proceed.

So why include verses 11-14 if not to emphasize that the mighty wind, the earthquake, and the fire were not of the Lord. But after the acts of nature – as Pastor Dickson surmised – God could be found in the sheer silence (or the soft murmuring sounds). Which is why “when Elijah heard it,” he came out of the cave – where the Lord was waiting. Quite possibly the Holy Spirit, but the Old Testament did not include the concept.

As a result of free will and “having dominion” over the earth (Gen. 1:26 & 28), the world is to a large extent – and for better or worse – in our hands. And although God created nature, it too has “mind of its own” as it were. How else could God be disappointed in us? Because we let our faith and trust in God falter, not to mention ignoring his gift of grace.

When a natural disaster occurs, it happens “before the Lord,” but the Lord is not in the disaster (he did not cause it). But after the disaster, depending on the circumstances, the Lord appears in the sheer silence or soft murmur. Which is when we come out of the cave and listen to the Lord. He helps us get over the trauma, gather together as children of God, and move on. The effect of our existence on the earth is, literally, our “cross to bear.” But the Lord is there in the resulting silence, waiting to comfort us and help us persevere.

Peace be with you.

* Jewish Study Bible

The King of Glory Lutheran Church’s Dr. Debbie Jacob Life Enrichment Series presents Living a Real Life in a Real World with Dr. Walter Brueggemann on Sunday and Monday, March 6-7. Dr. Brueggemann will preach at all three worship services on Sunday morning. A program on Sunday evening at 7 p.m. and a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. on Monday will round out the event.

A Rest from the Rat Race will be the topic on Sunday evening. Brueggemann will discuss the answer to questions such as: Does our acquisitive culture keep us too anxious to rest? What alternatives do we have to our frantic lives? How can Sabbath keeping help us withdraw from the rat race and refresh our souls? The suggested donation is $5, but due to limited seating, registration is required.

The topic for the luncheon on Monday is Giving In Without Giving Up. Is U.S culture hostile to our living the Gospel? Can faith survive in our militant and materialistic environment? How can we learn to respond intentionally? Registration is $20 and includes luncheon.

Dr. Brueggemann is professor emeritus of Old Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia, where he taught from 1986 until his retirement in 2003. A respected author and one of the world’s leading theologians, Dr. Brueggemann bridges the Old Testament and contemporary Christian worlds with imagination, scholarship, and a passion for justice and redemption. He is a contributing editor for “Sojourners” and “Christian Century,” he has received honorary degrees and awards from numerous institutions, and is a past president of the Society of Biblical Literature.

Before her death in 2005, Debbie Jacob and her husband, Will, created a program to fund speakers in adult education on topics such as sociology, economics, art, music, and theology. Dr. Brueggemann’s visit is the second in the series. King Of Glory began as a mission church more than 50 years ago and moved to its current site in 1968 so that it might be more visible within the community. King of Glory is a “place where people can grow together in faith and make a difference in the world for Christ.” Its mission is to be and to make growing disciples.

See the King of Glory website for registration, directions, and other information.

Peace be with you.

Time of Calamity

A couple of days ago, about 10 a.m., the bottom dropped out, weather-wise. The “sky was crying,” as Stevie Ray Vaughan would sing. It also sounded as if Mother Nature might have some serious issues. Being in the middle of a storm is a little scary, no matter who you are. You may not admit it, but even the strongest among us have their moments.

When it is storming so tremendously outside that the thunder, lightning, and rain on the house is all you hear – even over the tv, radio, or heater. The sun seems to be on sick leave and the sky just gets increasingly darker. If you are having any major life problems at all – and who is not – a serious funk can be one thunder crash away. The all-consuming gloominess that appears to surround you suddenly feels tangible – shrinking around the house like plastic wrap – closing off all exits. That’s how I imagine Qohelet felt when I read certain parts of Ecclesiastes.

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful; but time and chance happen to them all. For no one can anticipate the time of disaster. Like fish taken in a cruel net, and like birds caught in a snare, so mortals are snared at a time of calamity, when it suddenly falls upon them.” Eccl. 9:11, 12.

Everyone has experienced times similar to those mentioned here. But, as I discuss in the book, Qohelet did not have grace and forgiveness of sins as we have. Not to say that God did not give grace to the Israelites or grace their endeavors – the Israelites simply did not see it as grace, per se. The Israelites and people of the Old Testament viewed life in more concrete terms. If life took a bad turn – family, crops, or livestock dying, for example – they must have done something to cause it.

Unfortunately for them, Jesus Christ had not been born yet. Fortunately for us, he has. Through Christ’s life and sacrifice, we not only have God’s grace, but the Holy Spirit and forgiveness of sins. Looking at Ecclesiastes in that light, we can take Qohelet’s view – which is valid even today – mix in grace, the Holy Spirit, and redemption, and ascertain our actions as Christians when we have a tendency to “hate all the toil in which we have toiled under the sun.”

Join me on the journey.

Peace be with you.

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