Well, this makes sense.

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Eschatology isn’t all that interesting to me as a subject to be honest, even as I think it’s just about the most important topic we need as Christians. It’s the details that aren’t all that interesting to me, which is what most of the conversation is about. That God is making all things good, and the End is in his control, is just about enough for me. I need to keep in mind who wins, not how. But, there’s this, for those who are interested:

You scored as Moltmannian Eschatology. Jürgen Moltmann is one of the key eschatological thinkers of the 20th Century. Eschatology is not only about heaven and hell, but God’s plan to make all things new. This should spur us on to political and social action in the present.

Moltmannian Eschatology

75%

Amillenialist

55%

Postmillenialist

45%

Premillenialist

45%

Dispensationalist

30%

Preterist

25%

Left Behind

25%

What's your eschatology?
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the obligatory post

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Today is the 5th anniversary of September 11th. Which really sounds odd in a manner of speaking. It’s also the 7th anniversary of September 11th, and the 35th, and the 2nd, and the 404th. Tomorrow will be the 5th anniversary of September 12th, and the 798th.

September 11th is different because we all know what we’re talking about. It’s sort of odd that it hasn’t been given a name, but maybe names are best given when folks who lived through it are passing away.

It’s also odd for me because society makes such a huge deal about it and yet as far as I can tell I wasn’t in any way whatsoever affected by the events on September 11th. I can’t even think of anyone who was really affected. I don’t even travel by plane, at least not for the last five years, so not even security issues have affected me.

The closest I get is the topics of conversation I’ve had the last years. Those are likely different. But that’s hardly worth noting. So while I watched it on television, can say the exact moment I heard and how I spent that day, it has the quality of an historical event, one which didn’t precede my lifetime but did exist outside of it.

A curious thing. Indeed, I remember that day with a vague fondness, as it was a rare and fleeting moment, a last gasp almost of gathered community of people who soon went separate directions.

It did provoke a rumination on the Church, written in December of 2001. Maybe that’s worth noting.

Monday morning silliness

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Your Spy Name: Middle name and current street name
David Massive

Your Movie Star Name: Grandfather/grandmother on your mom’s side, your favorite candy
Merle Reese

Your Rap Name: First initial of first name, first two or three letters of your last name
P-Ode

Your Gamer Tag: A favorite color, a favorite animal
Red Raven

Your Soap Opera Name: Middle name, city where you were born
David Winfield

Your Star Wars Name: First 3 letters of your last name, last 3 letters of mother’s maiden name, first 3 letters of your pet’s name
Odem Cbnic

Your Superhero Name: “The”, your favorite color, the automobile your dad drives
The Crimson Cherokee

Your Action Hero Name: First Name Of The Main Character In The Last Film You Watched, last Food You Just Ate
Parry Chili

The Seventh

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In the usual lists Envy would come next. You know, wanting what someone else has. Could also be called jealousy.

Envy is the province of small people who don’t work as hard but want the rewards. It is the vice of zero sum, wishing others to lose in order to win. It is corrosive and destructive and altogether unsightly, entirely the opposite of what anyone would see as Christian values of generosity and servanthood and passion. The envious person is the person at the back wishing they could be in front, wishing they were leading not that other guy, wishing they were wealthy. While those who do work, who put in the time and effort and knowledge to move forward on their own avoid envy by effort and struggle and spirituality. Work and be content.

This all is why Envy is not the best choice for a deadly sin. Who would think this something to hold onto? It’s a shallow, easy vice not one to celebrate. And certainly not one that can be properly excused by our excellent rationalization skills. For really, that’s what makes a deadly sin a deadly sin. It leads to death because we think there’s life in it. We can be blinded to their pernicious effects by coming up with all sorts of reasons to embrace them. No one wants to be envious.

Vainglory on the other hand. That’s good stuff. Look at me. Look at me. See what I’m doing. Envy is a symptom of vainglory, but it is vainglory that encompasses the broader disease.

Of course, there’s a reason why envy is in the list and vainglory is not. The Seven Deadly sins, as well as being justified by sinners are also easily accused by saints. We want sins we can point to and name names. We want to be able to accuse those who are down and make firm lines in the sand between Us and them.

Vainglory doesn’t allow this. It doesn’t allow this because along with pride vainglory is in a new category. The other six deadly sins attack us and make us stink. They are signs we’ve missed the mark and expressions of our mark missing. Vainglory, however, is substantively more insidious.

You see, with vainglory a person can be entirely right, entirely knowledgable, entirely without visible sin, a saint to all near an far, a model of Christian living and insight. Yet, with this be entirely on the road to death.

Vainglory is the sin of wanting to be seen, of accepting glory that should go to God, of wanting to highlight one’s own gifts, talents, learning, skills, authority, so that others pay proper respect. Instead of finding satisfaction in God, the vainglorious person finds their value coming from the attention of others.

Why is this so insidious? Because it is when all the other sins are overcome that this one comes to topple the building that has been built. This, along with Pride, is the deadly sin of the holy and righteous and the most worrisome fault of those who think themselves leaders.

It is insidious because it is an inner reality, not an outward expression and can accompany entirely positive works and attitudes.

It is dangerous because of the fact that it is an ever present danger, but for the absolute indwelling of humility.

It is dangerous because even by writing this now, and being glad someone will read it, and wondering if I’m phrasing this all well, I’m flirting with it now.

Vainglory, because of all of this, is in my opinion the strongest deadly sin on the internet, even if other sins seem to be more visible. We’re all wanting attention, and value, and acclaim for whatever our assets may be, whether they are physical, or mental, or literary, or whatever.

It is more dangerous because it seems so right, and verbal arguments can’t hardly be made to the contrary, and judgments are really hard to come by. How do I tell if a great Christian leader is primarily motivated by love of God or love for attention? Often we can’t.

I’m a leader. I’m pretty. I’m wise. I’m artistic. I’m opinionated. I study. I am disciplined. I work out. I… I… I… That’s what we hear all around, competing voices for competing attention all wanting to make their traits seem better so that someone anyone will give them a pittance or more of value.

Envy is a vice to be sure, but it’s easily spotted. Vainglory is a deadly sin because it hides in the garden of real gifts and talents, waiting to strike and deliver its poison just when a person thinks they have it together.

Being right isn’t wisdom, even if it wins arguments. Being talented isn’t leadership even if others follow or are impressed. Being skilled in singing or drawing isn’t artistic, even if works impress others. Because all these things can be true, but vainglory can come in turning these gifts downwards to worship the one opposed to the Divine, leading the Body towards dissolution rather than holy unity and edification.

“Bursting Before Me”

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Another little thing I wrote last week. Sort of a rumination on Psalm 55:12.

The night was hot. My life struggles in confusion and frustrations, the thoughts of it all invading my sleep. With the heat and my inner frenzy I wake up early, while it is still dark. I don’t feel the peace of a night filled with sleep. Instead I feel scattered and unfocused. My mind wanders down impassable trails. My body fidgets. There’s no use in trying to fall back asleep, so I get up, rub my eyes, then put on some shorts and a t-shirt. My day has just started, but it has not started well.

I go outside, out onto the deck where the sky is still dark and the birds are still silent. There is no use in trying to force my way into this day. There is only to seek what I cannot now find.

I sit and I try to pray, my words hollow and wan, rising nowhere. The silence is an oppression. I know this to be a reflection of my soul, not God. Only how do I rise out of this dark cloud, so I can see and hear and rejoice? My heart lies heavy within me. My prayers become heavy sighs.

A gust of air lifts the branches near me. I stop my wrestling and look at the trees in the barest of morning light. The sky has become a dark blue rather than black. I see scattered clouds on the horizon reflecting the light of an approaching sun. I breathe in deeply. I exhale. I breathe in deeply. I exhale.

Off in the distance a chickadee tests his voice. The early bird sings. Another closer by echoes with a short song of his own. I listen, hearing more voices and try to put a name to their various whistles, and tweets, and screeches. The blue grows lighter. The clouds become whiter.

There is a tripled caw, answered soon by another. The ravens are awake. I see one soaring over a nearby ridge, rising with the gusts of air, then diving low with sheer exuberance of flight.

The breeze picks up and becomes steady. Cedar branches around me begin to dance. Birds now awake flit around from tree to tree, each with their own part and voice.

Steller’s jays erupt in a cacophony of screeching. There must be a coyote or bobcat or maybe merely an argument over territory. It doesn’t take much for the jays to get worked up.

The ground becomes active with squirrels making use of the dawn light to gather seeds and acorns. Two robins bound through the tree across from me and then onto the ground, tilting their heads after a couple of steps watchful for a beetle or worm. A chipmunk on a stump is less industrious. He squeaks for a friend, his tail swishing with each call. I see another climbing the low branches of a fir sapling. We’ll hear him in a moment. There. He answers with more staccato chirps.

In the west the sky is still blue. In the east it is now almost white. All birds are now quite busy. The breeze turns to a wind. I still listen and I watch.

A flock of band tailed pigeons burst out of a tall pine, surprising me with their numbers and noise, for I hadn’t any idea it was so crowded. The sun begins to brighten the tops of the tallest trees.

With the wind growing in strength new sounds are added to the forest music. A faint whistle rises and falls with each gust. The pines are adding their voices. Above me and around me is the heavier whoosh of breeze through cedars. I hear the wind play the trees, the sound growing from far away then approaching like a flash flood. The gust hits me. All the trees dance and sing, their branches clapping with the force of air. Pines whistle, cedars whoosh, and then with this newest gust I hear the oaks.

It is a rattle, their heavy broad leaves shaking a steady percussion, giving texture to the higher and middle tones.

The birds continue to chat and sing, joined by chipmunks and squirrels and cedars and pines and oaks. The sun rises over the hill to the east, bathing me in its warm soothing light. I close my eyes and nod my head with the rhythm of the forest harmony.

The Spirit whispers peace into my soul. Ah, there. The melody begins.

Doing unto others

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The Golden rule, “Do to others as you would have them do to you”, is as well known as anything Jesus said.

It’s not wholly original in its basic premise, though curiously stated. Confucius said about 500 years before Jesus, “What you do not want others to do to you, do not do to others.”

About fifty years before Jesus the great Jewish teacher Hillel said, “What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man.”

Following his lead, about 600 years after Jesus Muhammad said, “Hurt no one so that no one may hurt you.”

In essence these are telling people to avoid doing wrong to people. You don’t want someone to do something, make sure first you don’t do it to others. It’s the basic ethic. You don’t like “that” don’t do “that”.

Avoiding wrong actions led by our own perception is how we interpret the words of Jesus as well. Though he phrases it differently we take it to mean much the same as we read more literally Hillel or Confucius or Muhammad saying it, a phrasing which seeks to stop wrong or hurtful actions.

However, that’s not what Jesus is getting at. He’s about more than telling people not to be hurtful. The verses that proceed the Golden Rule in Luke 6 say this, “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

Jesus is not about simply avoiding the doing of wrong. He is about the doing of right. Christians do not merely avoid vice, they embrace virtue. They are not merely trying to make it through this world with the least amount of bother, they are called to be a blessing.

What this means is that in my list of complaints, worries, frustrations, irritations, and whatnot it’s sometimes easy (this morning in a peculiar state of crabbiness being one of them) to be bothered by lack of response or lack of presence or lack of assistance or lack of whatever that I feel people in my life can provide but stay strangely silent. This irritation and frustration at others may have a valid foundation, only it’s not right for me to hold onto. That frustrates not only my mind, but also my soul, counteracting the command towards thanksgiving.

That’s what is so important about what Jesus is saying. He’s not saying avoid. He’s saying do. He’s not saying stop. He’s saying go. Do to others. If I need encouragement, I need to encourage. If I feel like I would value someone reading my work, I need to step forward and read or listen to theirs. If I want people to “show up”, I need to show up myself, not so I can then expect a tit for tat, but so that I can recreate in my soul the perspective of Christ by taking my needs and asserting them outwardly to others in a positive fashion. I need to be to others who I need others to be to me, and strangely by doing this the weight lessens as I renew my thanksgiving and the Spirit comes to encourage my soul for stepping out of the muck and mire to embrace that which is higher even when I am feeling particularly lower.

This is one of the biggest lessons of humility, and one of the stronger lessons I’m learning. I cannot blame others. I am only to do to others. In this is light.

Acting this out regularly and with gusto is rather more difficult than it would appear, because it is an assertion of humility that we are owed nothing, but instead always owe. We are always to pay first for services that may never be given. We are debtors to those who have loaned us little, and committed to those who may entirely ignore us. Because, Christ loves them, and in doing this we become like Christ… who died on a cross, a point of action for others we’ve not nearly reached.

oh bothers

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Each day I intend to finish up my entry posts on the deadly sins. Each day I’m pulled away or distracted. Monday’s night I posted about below, which left me groggy through Tuesday, though not too groggy to go and meet for an afternoon of libations and victuals, and an evening of the same, at a different place for my writers meeting.

Last evening the roads were closed to home. All of them. Accident. Fire. Gas tanker spill. Another accident. Car fire. Road reconstruction. The mountain was blocked. Stayed the night in a Motel 6 (an Accor hotel). Turned the air conditioner on full blast, and fell asleep to the Dirty Jobs 100th episode extravaganza.

Drove home this morning. Realized the pauses and bumps and loss of power wasn’t an illusion while driving up the 15. Took an offramp. Put in some oil and coolant. Went back on my now not so merry way, hoping a wee bit of attention is all the old fella needed. Realized the pauses and bumps and loss of power wasn’t due to low coolant and oil after all. There was one alternate route open to home, the back way filled with many curves, steep grades, and loss of cell phone signal. I convinced myself I was fine.

I did get home after taking 21/2 hours to make what should be an hour drive. The hills, you see, they didn’t agree with my Chevy. I could have stopped, had it towed, then waited all day in Fontana (which is 105 degrees) for the mechanic to look it over and replace the probable sparkplug problem. So, I sputtered my way up and around the hills, thinking sputtering was better than waiting. There were points my car just about stopped, but I was able to coax it to the next pull out, and give it a rest, which seemed to work. I got home, though entirely without attempting to drive up the steep driveway.

The collection of these various bothers are by no means an emergency or even a disaster. Just bothers, gathered together in a two day stretch, which leaves me rather less focused on writing about the pernicious qualities of vainglory. I’m a little more familiar with humility right now, as a matter of fact.

Tomorrow, however, as James says, if the Lord wills I will live and do this or maybe that.

odd night

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There are nights I sleep bad and significantly more nights I sleep good. When I sleep bad there’s generally a reason. Then there are the nights in which I sleep bad, and it seems like there are all manner of reasons except I don’t know a one of them, except for when the mystery peeks out in some odd manner.

I had a terrible nights sleep last night. Felt tired and sleepy around 10, but for whatever reason once I turned my light out I was agitated. My thoughts picked up steam and I felt a dull unease, a vague headache, and an indistinct sore throat. I tossed and turned then woke up feeling not at all rested but certainly awake. I got up, went to the bathroom, and had a look at a clock thinking it was about 3 in the morning.

It was 11:45.

I read a little bit more, couldn’t focus, and checked my emails of which there were none. More out of boredom than sleepiness I turned my light out again.

An hour later I woke from the barest of sleep and again turned on the light, only to be rather surprised by a flurry of activity exactly above me, and then around me, and then above me, and then circling my room.

Ah, I said to myself. A bat has gotten in.

Bats don’t scare me. But, they are a bit disconcerting, especially when they are doing laps around the room at what would be exactly my head level. And, the fact is bats are smarter than one might expect. I turned that light on and he didn’t want to be in here and I suspect he knew I was the one who could free him from his self-induced captivity. Because of this, I’ve learned from a past experience, a bat encourages action by swooping oddly close to one’s head. These things are a blur while in flight, and it’s like trying to manuever in a room where a baseball is flying around and around. A person doesn’t have to be afraid. The desire not to get hit in the head makes for similar responses.

I sit up and dive to the ground over to my sliding door. I quickly open it. The bat wants out and I’m happy to oblige. Then I crawl out my door, down the stairs. The bat follows me out and begins doing laps around the living room, again at just about the height my head would be if I stood, so I don’t stand. Another low leap to the sliding door leading to the deck, and I open it, then crawl over to the front door. I open it then stand outside. Less than thirty seconds later I see a small mammal fly out and right by me, just as happy to get back to his home as I’m happy to see him leave mine. All very orderly really, and much less complicated a procedure than last week when a chickadee got in and hadn’t a clue how to get out again.

And maybe, just maybe, any flying insects we had around inside were cleared out.

Read a little while more, then fell asleep. Woke up again at 2:30. Pulled out a Far Side book, because if I was going to be awake I might as well be entertained. Fell back asleep.

Got a call at 6:30 which woke me up. The call, unlike the bat, I very much welcomed, so was happy to be woken up.

Which leaves me now rather awake and pressed to begin work, except for the fact I had such a scattered sleep my brain isn’t exactly amenable to any such suggestions.

It is an odd thing to wake up in the middle of the night with a brown bat above one’s head. It may be even odder to wake up in the morning and think, “Well, that seemed entirely fitting really.”

Oh, and there’s no point to this whatsoever, just exercising my realization this morning may not be exactly the best morning to begin writing winsomely about the theological conception of sin as found in the Pauline corpus.

random evening notes

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Someone came to this site looking for the “feeling paranoid Bible”. Now, I don’t have one and I’d never thought about this before, but it does make perfect sense really. A good many folks look to the Bible to justify all manner of fears or conspiracies or other dangers. Call a spade a spade and get yourself a “feeling paranoid Bible” if you really want the thrill of being a martyr without going to the Middle East.

Completely unrelated. I was going through and sorting some new mp3 files I just ripped. Old and New Testament mind you, so it was a kosher activity. In the background, however, I had Fox on, mostly because of the Simpsons. Then that ended and Malcom in the Middle came on. It’s a reasonable enough show for mindless background entertainment, so I kept it on while I worked. Towards the end of the show my attention was drawn by a commercial I hadn’t seen before, a commercial proclaiming the opportunities, equal and otherwise, of working for the CIA. Yes, that CIA, which ended on a picture of their austere logo and a link to their website. The CIA is hiring apparently.

Who exactly are they looking for that they advertise employment opportunities during a rerun of Malcolm in the Middle? Is this their ideal demographic?

It does explain a lot really.

Labor Day

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A return to more considered posts tomorrow. Today, on Labor Day, I have a bug:

insect of some sort