San Miguel Island

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The San Miguel Island ’07 trip pictures are now in the gallery.

Elephant Seals

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In December Elephant seals, male and female, come down from Alaska to the beaches of SoCal islands to breed. The males leave pretty soon after their business is done (there isn’t a March of the Seals, to be sure) leaving the ladies to raise the babies. The females don’t eat during breeding or raising. When the pups are weaned, the females go swimming for a couple of months to eat. Then they come back to the islands and shed their skin. When this is done they swim back up to the Alaska, never getting out of the water until it’s time to breed again.

During the three weeks their skin is flaking off, the elephant seal females don’t eat. They just sit on the beach, lounging around.

away and back again

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Been a long while since I posted. No reason why. Though part of it is my thinking about making some big changes on dualravens in general and I’ve been otherwise focused on that.

Then again, for the last weekend at least, I didn’t even have a computer or any contact with the world, at least the civilized world. Me and the natural world had a grand time.

Went to San Miguel Island over the holiday weekend.

San Miguel Island
San Miguel Island
elephant seals on San Miguel Island

More pics later.

Habakkuk

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O LORD, I have heard of your renown,
and I stand in awe, O LORD, of your work.
In our own time revive it;
in our own time make it known;
in wrath may you remember mercy

Have you read Habakkuk lately? Well, you should. It’s a good bit of reading, nicely nestled among the generally ignored prophets. If you haven’t recently today is a good day for it, since it’s Habakkuk day according to my calendar. So, Habakkuk.
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autobiography

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Every once in a while I get in a more intense mood of self-analysis. Given my present life this is common on a certain level, but not always to such an intense degree. Nor is it always so intensely interested in wandering the trails of my past self, looping around the “what ifs” of life. This isn’t melancholy because there are highs as well as lows, hopes as well as frustrations, and as the story isn’t finished I don’t know what conclusions to draw from a wide variety of moments. But, for whatever, reason these sundry moments are pulling at me, leaving me in an odd state for the moment.

I’m thinking about my story and my present, my interests and my direction. I’m thinking about the decisions I’ve made and the decisions that have been made by others which have radically affected my life. I wonder about the small stuff that may have had a significant impact and the large stuff that may not have made nearly the difference in my life I assume.

If I were to write this story now — not that anyone would buy such a tale at this point — I think I would focus on a certain aspect of my development.

More formally, I could say this is the clearest sign that I follow the psychological path of other religiously inclined figures from history, and would fit into Erik Erikson’s model of a homo religious.  From a paper I wrote on John Wesley:

Erikson’s fifth stage, which begins with puberty, deals with Identity vs. Role Confusion. The adolescent is dealing with massive bodily changes as they begin to bridge between being a child and becoming an adult, not comfortable in either world. They are “primarily concerned with what they appear to be in the eyes of others as compared with what they feel they are, and with the question of how to connect the roles and skills cultivated earlier with the occupational prototypes of the day.” Typically, this means a reworking of the previous developmental stages as the what was once in order falls into disorder, then becomes orderly again on a deeper level as the relationalities which underlie all the order become evident. In a study of John Wesley, however, it appears that one needs to take a different track with the analysis. James Loder in his chapter on adolescence speaks of “two fundamentally different ways to go through adolescence.” The first is the traditional path as previously described, the second, however, seems to occur for those whom their religiosity has become “definitive for the totality of their lives” and for whom “personal identity as a member of his society was taken over and shaped by the question of his existential identity as a human being before God.”

In his study of Martin Luther, Erikson found that young Luther simply was not asking the same questions as others his age, but rather had jumped immediately to deal with the questions that usually encompass the last stage of development, that of Integrity vs. Despair. The homo religious, as termed by Erikson, seems older when young, focusing “in a precocious way on what it takes others a lifetime to gain a mere inkling of: the question of how to escape corruption in living and how in death to give meaning to life.” This person can “permit himself to face as permanent the trust problem which drives others in whom it remains or becomes dominant into denial, despair, and psychosis.” In the Christian context this is not simply attaching certain terms to broader religious experiences, but it is indeed a prolonged act of transformation which the very Spirit of God begins to work in the life of the individual, transforming the ego from its defensive posture and opening up the soul of the individual to see Reality. As this is ultimately a question of trust, this stage is characterized in the adolescent not by seeking personal identity, or asking “who am I?”, but rather the question is “why?” and the quest will continue, prolonging this stage and the identity crisis which it entails until the Face appears, the Face that will not go away, the Face of God himself. As Loder puts it, “the Divine Spirit dramatically and powerfully penetrates and permeates the whole person so that he is consumed by the Divine Presence.”

Loder puts it well, though maybe more dramatically than seen from the inside. Even as I absolutely identify with this description, I might term in a different way. I have been distracted by God. My whole life, at each key stage of development thus far, I have stepped away from what would make sense and would bring order. On the surface a person could look and try to analyze my fears or worries or gaps of being. If they entered into my motives and thoughts, however, they would see something rather more peculiar, an unquenchable yearning to become present with God, and let go of the standard order so as to embrace the infinitely complex, chaotic order of the Three-in-One. Not that I’ve done this thoroughly or completely, which leaves me in a bit of a bind.

It’s not the fulfillment of this I see so far, it is the distraction and the constant waves of pressing spiritual perplexities that push me deeper and farther. The reasons for this haven’t become apparent, and my present worry is that my persistent tendency to be distracted by God has pushed me outside the bounds of return.

Maybe not, though. Which is why I’ve developed an accompanying yearning to discover the work of the third person, the Holy Spirit, who pulls away but also pushes towards.

Sounds grand I suppose, but at times, during seasons it leaves me particularly perplexed.

Obadiah Day

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So, I realized I haven’t been taking notice of my church calendar of late, which sort of takes away the point of a church calendar.

However, I peeked over just right now and saw that in the Eastern churches at least today is the day celebrating the Prophet Obadiah. Now, I know, I’m likely the last person to remember this, and you almost certainly have had your Obadiah decorations up for a week or more at least, and may be reading this surrounded by a house full of Obadians, dressed up in the traditional holiday garb, preparing to recite, from memory, the lines of this great prophet. So, pardon me for my late notice.

If by chance you don’t have Obadiah reciters nearby, I’d heartily encourage you to have a go at this great, if all too often ignored, prophet. It’s rather humbling really and a good caution for us still.

1 The vision of Obadiah.
This is what the Sovereign LORD says about Edom—
We have heard a message from the LORD :
An envoy was sent to the nations to say,
“Rise, and let us go against her for battle”-

2 “See, I will make you small among the nations;
you will be utterly despised.

3 The pride of your heart has deceived you,
you who live in the clefts of the rocks
and make your home on the heights,
you who say to yourself,
‘Who can bring me down to the ground?’

4 Though you soar like the eagle
and make your nest among the stars,
from there I will bring you down,”
declares the LORD.

5 “If thieves came to you,
if robbers in the night—
Oh, what a disaster awaits you—
would they not steal only as much as they wanted?
If grape pickers came to you,
would they not leave a few grapes?

6 But how Esau will be ransacked,
his hidden treasures pillaged!

7 All your allies will force you to the border;
your friends will deceive and overpower you;
those who eat your bread will set a trap for you,
but you will not detect it.

8 “In that day,” declares the LORD,
“will I not destroy the wise men of Edom,
men of understanding in the mountains of Esau?

9 Your warriors, O Teman, will be terrified,
and everyone in Esau’s mountains
will be cut down in the slaughter.

10 Because of the violence against your brother Jacob,
you will be covered with shame;
you will be destroyed forever.

11 On the day you stood aloof
while strangers carried off his wealth
and foreigners entered his gates
and cast lots for Jerusalem,
you were like one of them.

12 You should not look down on your brother
in the day of his misfortune,
nor rejoice over the people of Judah
in the day of their destruction,
nor boast so much
in the day of their trouble.

13 You should not march through the gates of my people
in the day of their disaster,
nor look down on them in their calamity
in the day of their disaster,
nor seize their wealth
in the day of their disaster.

14 You should not wait at the crossroads
to cut down their fugitives,
nor hand over their survivors
in the day of their trouble.

15 “The day of the LORD is near
for all nations.
As you have done, it will be done to you;
your deeds will return upon your own head.

16 Just as you drank on my holy hill,
so all the nations will drink continually;
they will drink and drink
and be as if they had never been.

17 But on Mount Zion will be deliverance;
it will be holy,
and the house of Jacob
will possess its inheritance.

18 The house of Jacob will be a fire
and the house of Joseph a flame;
the house of Esau will be stubble,
and they will set it on fire and consume it.
There will be no survivors
from the house of Esau.”
The LORD has spoken.

19 People from the Negev will occupy
the mountains of Esau,
and people from the foothills will possess
the land of the Philistines.
They will occupy the fields of Ephraim and Samaria,
and Benjamin will possess Gilead.

20 This company of Israelite exiles who are in Canaan
will possess the land as far as Zarephath;
the exiles from Jerusalem who are in Sepharad
will possess the towns of the Negev.

21 Deliverers will go up on Mount Zion
to govern the mountains of Esau.
And the kingdom will be the LORD’s.

James

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Today is the day that James, the brother of Jesus, is honored. James is a curious fellow really. We don’t really know what to do with him. We don’t really give him the right name. James is an aglicized version of Jacob. The New Testament doesn’t have a book of James. It does have a letter written by Jacob, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, tradition is tradition I suppose — and so instead of Jacob we call him James. He’s also mysterious because he is the brother of Jesus, and we don’t really know what to do with Jesus’ family, other than Mary. He shows up in Acts 15 as a rather important character, yet he wasn’t around during the Gospels. Something happened in the in between, and something happened which made him the head of the church in Jerusalem. Once again we are given only a taste. We do not have the whole story, only the parts that bear on our part.

Martin Luther called the short book of James an “epistle of straw” because Luther’s interpretation of James, the brother of Jesus, head of the church in Jerusalem, dared to disagree with Luther’s intepretation of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Luther wanted this book out of the Book because of this passage from chapter 2:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works ? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Of course, Luther later showed some straw of his own and also showed that while he could earnestly read a part of Romans, he didn’t quite get around to reading the whole thing, including what seems to be more the point of the book as found in chapter 12. James and Paul agree quite a bit, much more than Luther’s limited questions were willing to accept.

James is also mysterious because of a brief passage Eusebius, the great early church historian, writes about him. This passage makes a lot more of James than we generally consider. But, if Mary was the Mary we honor, and Jesus was the Jesus we worship, then is it really a surprise that a younger brother would also be a special, holy sort of person?

Have a read of this passage from Eusebius on this feast day of Jacob, brother of Yeshua, then open your Bible and turn to the book just past the book of Hebrews to read what such a man had to say to the Church.

Chapter XXIII.–The Martyrdom of James, who was called the Brother of the Lord.

1. But after Paul, in consequence of his appeal to Caesar, had been sent to Rome by Festus, the Jews, being frustrated in their hope of entrapping him by the snares which they had laid for him, turned against James, the brother of the Lord, to whom the episcopal seat at Jerusalem had been entrusted by the apostles. The following daring measures were undertaken by them against him.

2. Leading him into their midst they demanded of him that he should renounce faith in Christ in the presence of all the people. But, contrary to the opinion of all, with a clear voice, and with greater boldness than they had anticipated, he spoke out before the whole multitude and confessed that our Saviour and Lord Jesus is the Son of God. But they were unable to bear longer the testimony of the man who, on account of the excellence of ascetic virtue and of piety which he exhibited in his life, was esteemed by all as the most just of men, and consequently they slew him. Opportunity for this deed of violence was furnished by the prevailing anarchy, which was caused by the fact that Festus had died just at this time in Judea, and that the province was thus without a governor and head.

3. The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows:

4. “James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James.

5. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath.

6. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.

7. Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, `Bulwark of the people’ and `Justice,’ in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.

8. Now some of the seven sects, which existed among the people and which have been mentioned by me in the Memoirs, asked him, `What is the gate of Jesus?’ [498] and he replied that he was the Saviour.

On account of these words some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects mentioned above did not believe either in a resurrection or in one’s coming to give to every man according to his works. But as many as believed did so on account of James.

10. Therefore when many even of the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the Christ. Coming therefore in a body to James they said, `We entreat you, restrain the people; for they are gone astray in regard to Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat you to persuade all that have come to the feast of the Passover concerning Jesus; for we all have confidence in you. For we bear you witness, as do all the people, that you are just.

11. Therefore, persuade the multitude not to be led astray concerning Jesus. For the whole people, and all of us also, have confidence in you. Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of the temple, that from that high position you may be clearly seen, and that thy words may be readily heard by all the people. For all the tribes, with the Gentiles also, are come together on account of the Passover.’

12. The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and cried out to him and said: ` you just one, in whom we ought all to have confidence, for as much as the people are led astray after Jesus, the crucified one, declare to us, what is the gate of Jesus.’

13. And he answered with a loud voice, `Why do you ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sits in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.’

14. And when many were fully convinced and gloried in the testimony of James, and said, `Hosanna to the Son of David,’ these same Scribes and Pharisees said again to one another, `We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, in order that they may be afraid to believe him.’

15. And they cried out, saying, `Oh! oh! the just man is also in error.’ And they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah, `Let us take away the just man, because he is troublesome to us: therefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings.’

16. So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to each other, `Let us stone James the Just.’ And they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned and knelt down and said, `I entreat you, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’

17. And while they were thus stoning him one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of the Rechabites, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out, saying, `Cease, what you do? The just one prays for you.’

18. And one of them, who was a fuller, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple. He became a true witness, both to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ. And immediately Vespasian besieged them.”

19. These things are related at length by Hegesippus, who is in agreement with Clement. James was so admirable a man and so celebrated among all for his justice, that the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them immediately after his martyrdom for no other reason than their daring act against him.

20. Josephus, at least, has not hesitated to testify this in his writings, where he says, “These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called the Christ. For the Jews slew him, although he was a most just man.”

Luke

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Today is, according to my Church calendar, the feast day for Luke the Evangelist.

So, break out your Bible and have a go at Luke. Then while you’re at it go ahead and read Acts. Hardly anyone does that anymore.

call me Francis

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Looking right I notice today is the day celebrating Francis of Assisi.

Saint Francis in Prayer by Zurbaran

Now the odd thing is that I don’t know all that much about Francis. I’ve never read a biography. I’ve only read bits and pieces here and there about him. What I’ve picked up is from scattered sources usually only indirectly related to this saint.

This is odd because he is, after all, one of the premier spiritual leaders in history, a leader who emphasized and resonated with nature. Nature is infused in his spirituality, along with a strong devotion couple with freedom and imagination.

So, I don’t have a lot of particular insights to add about Francis today. Only that he is clearly someone I need to get to know. Thus the feast day has done its service for me by reminding me of those who have gone before and done so much. By reminding me that I need to know such men and women if I ever think to be a worthwhile Christian myself. We can blaze new trails but God also expects that we know the trails blazed before us, so as to fill our minds with good counsel and heavenly wisdom. It is also a chance to step out of time and become friends with one with whom I will share eternity.

rewards of a prophet

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Upon looking to my right at my church calendar I notice today is the commemoration of the beheading of John the Baptist. This is a rather shocking event really. Wasn’t John, next to Jesus, the most important person in the New Testament, filled with the Spirit, called by God before his birth, the first to recognize Jesus while both were still in the womb?

Where was God’s defense? Where was the blessings of one who preaches Truth? Where was the honor and privilege and joy? Though commended for his faith did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that he would not, apart from us, be made perfect. He saw the beginnings of that which he prophesied, a gift not given to other prophets. Even still he doubted and was confused. Yet he had faith. He asked and was answered and so died in perfect belief, not realizing it all would become even less clear before the truth of his message would truly find fulfilment.

He played his part. He spoke according to the Spirit. He was the forerunner and is honored accordingly, not because he received great blessings, but because he was a blessing to God the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Decapitation by Caravaggio

This isn’t the end one would except from such a one as John the B. Of course, the key bit is the fact this isn’t his end. Sure, he was beheaded and all. But, it’s what comes after even that which proves the measure of Christ’s gift to John, and to us all.