Thursday, July 13, 2006

Proverbs and Social Justice?!

You know, as I finished reading through the rest of Proverbs, I decided I had been a little unfair in my reception of that book over the years. Some time ago I read Jacques Ellul's book on Ecclesiastes in which he talks about the Wisdom Literature being in dialogue with itself--so no one book, whether Proverbs or Ecclesiastes or whatever, holds the whole picture. They engage each other, critique each other, play off each other.

But in the vein of a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, I had pigeon-holed Proverbs as being the Book of Wisdom of the Status Quo. Which, in my defense is at least partially true. There are a ton of proverbs which seem to be about keeping things the way they are, swimming with the current, not against it. Don't upset the balance, they seem to say. Rather, learn the balance and live it.

But this is not an accurate description of all the Proverbs. There are some--more than I thought--which upset the apple cart, so to speak, by calling for justice for the poor, for just rulers, for the end of oppression. While there are the verses that say that laziness will lead one into poverty, there are a lot of other verses which do not contend the poor are lazy. This is a subtle distinction I'd never noticed before. There are poor people, according to the Book of Proverbs, because there are oppressive systems, indulgent and dishonest leaders.

So in that vein, here are the proverbs that stood out for me in my reading yesterday:

"When a land rebels it has many rulers;
but with an intelligent ruler there is lasting order.

A ruler who oppresses the poor
is a beating rain that leaves no food.

The evil do not understand justice,
but those who seek the Lord
understand it completely.

Better to be poor and walk in integrity
than to be crooked in one's ways even though rich.

(All from ch 28, verses 2, 3, 5, 6)

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

That's Just the Way it Is; Some Things will Never Change

Reading Proverbs leaves me gasping for Ecclesiastes! Really, I find the book of Proverbs to be airtight. All those couplets come together to form an impossible reality--a world where common sense reigns, where the unpredictableness of the Sacred is given no space.

It's not even that I don't agree with much of it. Maybe it's to the extent that I find it so easy to agree with Proverbs that the vacuum becomes complete. It's the cumulative effect of the book that exhausts me.

That said, here are the Proverbs that stood out for me in today's reading:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick
but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life
13:12

Each heart knows its own bitterness
and no one else can share its joy
14:10

A gentle answer turns away wrath
but a harsh word stirs up anger
15:1

Better a patient man than a warrior
a man who controls his temper
than one who takes a city.
16:32

Monday, July 10, 2006

The End is Near (or not)

Ouch.

My brother (Cyen) sent me an email this morning, asking if I was aware that we're scheduled to finish up our Reading the Bible in 90 Days on July 12. (gulp)

I am far, far, far from that goal. I lost my traction during our move and haven't been able to find my rhythm since then.

Tonight, though, I went back to the Zondervan website and re-set my start date to reflect where I am in my reading. (In Proverbs, if you must know!) And I hope to re-commit myself to the process. Ever hopeful.

So if all goes as planned, my new finish date is August 22.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Slowly She Creeps Along

Yesterday I finally cracked open the spine of my Bible again and started reading. I picked up with Job and read for 45 minutes--how much time I could spare. I figured something, finally, was better than nothing.

The book of Job always baffles me. Why does God point Job out to The Accuser? (I prefer to translate it that way, rather than the baggage-laden Satan.) God seems almost naive in doing this. What did he expect The Accuser to do? And when God goes for The Accuser deal, he ends up seeming rather whimsical. But these are my perennial questions about Job, nothing new about them for me.

What I did notice for the first time yesterday was Job's wife. Now, I haven't read the whole book now for awhile, so I can't recall if she ever shows up again in the story other than near the very beginning when she says, "Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die." And Job replies, "You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?" (2:9 & 10)

Astoundingly, the footnote in my New Oxford Annotated Bible points out regarding verse 9 the following: Curse, literally 'bless,' a euphemism. Job's wife still believed in his integrity (see 4.6 n.) but wishes to shorten his torture.

Wow. I don't know about you, but the only thing I've ever heard about Job's wife is that she tells Job to curse God and die. And she's gotten an awful lot of bad press over those few words she was given to speak. But now I see that she didn't actually say that? My question is, how do translators know that this particular passage is sarcasm? Are you aware of anywhere else in the Bible where such a justification is used? I mean, what if Job's wife truly meant, "Bless God, and die"?

Along with this thought, it occurred to me for the first time that everything Job lost, his wife lost, too. And yet we never hear about it this way. Was it not her children who were killed? Was it not her home that was lost? Was it not also her fortune that disappeared? And was she not having to watch her husband be tortured and waste away before her very eyes? But we hear nothing of her faith, we don't even hear her cry or suffer along with Job. Surely she suffered!

I know these questions are "outside the text." The story is not concerned with Job's wife, but with Job. Even so, I would love to hear the story told again from her perspective.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Falling Behind, but Not Giving Up

Well, dear ones, I have definitely fallen behind here. What with the move and everything, I've just not been able to get back to my routine of reading yet. But I hope I'll get back into the swing of things very soon.

I think I've just finished Esther.

Friday, June 02, 2006

moses?

quick post...
I'm finally into Joshua! (they rest of you must be so far ahead of me now... I can barely see you up there on that dusty road we are all traveling on).
Can someone remind me what moses did to not garner God's blessings on letting him into the new land? He had to stay behind on the mountain when he died, and I forgot what he did that was so bad.
(I remember Aaron was sort of punished in the same way for helping to make the golden idol)
Wow... How could Aaron have decided to help make the golden Idol!? It's not like God wasn't clear on this one :)
I also found the section on the blessings and curses for following the "law"... The blessings were about 2 paragraphs, and the curses just went on and on, and were some of the worst things I've ever heard of doing to another human. I almost found it comical, in how each "curse" tried to out-do the previous curse.

Monday, May 29, 2006

:: travelers together ::

:: Job Moved Me to Tears::

Well, I'm behind still but plodding and blogging. Just read all of Job tonight, and it moved me to tears. I will re-read it. Last time I read Job was about 10 years ago when I was going through a horrible, frightening time and I looked to Job for hope. (I was having a pity party).
Tonight I read it and was struck by the beauty, the poetry - like I experienced in some of my college English courses on John Donne or Milton. Some things are so timeless - those things always strike me as amazing...when something hits the core of human experience.....despite culture, language, century....we all understand faith and doubt, faith and fear...I was greatly moved.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Contradictions?

I think I'll stir up the bee's nest here with this post :)
Needless to say I'm still WAY behind - though I am making progress. (I'm still in Deuteronomy!)
I'm so tempted to skip Deueronomy since it seems to be yet another rehash of Exodus... but I won't. Over the weekend I saw the Da Vinci Code movie. While looking up some info about the movie on IMDB.com there was a discussion thread about bible questions. I was curious. Needless to say it quickly turned into people getting upset, a bit of name calling etc... But one of the things that struck me was the contradiction of the 10 commandments "Thou shalt not kill (murder)". Yet, time and again Moses is leading his people on a genocide to conquer land and other tribes. In addition to the brutality of the war, God instructs Moses, who then instructs his armies to destroy the Women and Children. Isn't this in contradiction to "thou shalt not kill"?
I was trying to put Moses' story in today's context, and I think he would be considered a war criminal!? I'm very confused (and a bit disgusted) at the way the Israelites are running through the countryside taking land and life of both animals and humans (women and children too). Very barbaric.
I had heard somewhere (probably online) a minister saying that people are constantly saying that the bible is full of contradictions, yet he challenged the reader to point to one... Did I just find one?
One of the arguments posted in the messageboard was that God was instructing Moses to kill these other tribes as "punishment". But I don't see it that way? am I missing something?
ok, I'll stop hitting the bee's nest with the stick now :)
By the way... how does it feel for the rest of you to be more than a third of the way through the Bible!?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Moms

One thing that strikes me in the monarchy narratives is that whenever they introduce a new king, they almost always say who his mama was.

I find this especially interesting because I've heard, read and passed on the "insight" that the geneology at the beginning of Matthew is extraordinary because it contains women: Tamar, Ruth, the wife of Uriah, etc. But apparently this is not extraordinary at all. Hmmmm.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

yeast

Does anyone know why there was such a big deal made about bread being made without yeast? All of the other rules (unclean, no blemish, etc... I can somewhat understand as they may be health related issues, but the yeast?).

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Original Worship Wars

Alright, I'm going to try and be slightly more articulate about what I'm noticing here.

I think as I wrote in a previous entry, I was bowled over by the book of Leviticus when I read it a couple weeks ago because I had never realized that it is in essence a liturgical document. The majority of Leviticus is concerned with proper ritual behavior for the new Israelite nation. I noticed for the first time that an essential part of becoming a people was to become a ritualized people--it was necessary to establish ritual guidelines in order to shape their identity as a group.

As I have continued to read through these books at such breakneak pace, I've been able to carry this liturgical lens into the other books. And I've noticed that the theme of worship is never far below the surface of the text.

In 1 Kings 12:28, we read that King Jeroboam de-centralizes the worship practices of the Israelite people by refusing to allow them to travel to Jerusalem anymore. Instead he builds two altars in the north which he requires them to use instead. To make matters worse, he creates two golden calves (or bulls) and tells them: "'Here are your gods (or elohim, in Hebrew, a name for God), O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.' He set one in Bethel and the other he put in Dan." Jeroboam also appointed festivals and priests for these altars.

As we travel through the era of the Kings, we hear that some of the kings did what was evil in the sight of God--they followed in the ways of Jeroboam. Which means they continued the practices of worship at these altars.

In my previous hurried posting, I mentioned Isaiah's cameo appearance in 2 Kings 18ff. (Can I just mention, I thought that was so cool to have Isaiah show up there!) But coming across his name in 2 Kings really triggered something for me, because Isaiah is the ultimate liturgical critic in my mind. The first chapter of Isaiah is a scathing critique of worship when it becomes separated from ethical actions. He cries out:

What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices?
says the Lord;
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fed beasts;
I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
or of lambs, or of goats.
When you come to appear before me,
who asked this from your hand?
Trample my courts no more;
bringing offerings is futile;
incense is an abomination to me.
New moon and sabbath and
calling of convocation--
I cannot endure your solemn assembies with iniquity.
Your new moons and your appointed festivals
my soul hates;
they have become a burden to me,
I am weary of bearing them.
When you stretch out your hands,
I will hide my eyes from you;
even though you make many prayers,
I will not listen;
your hands are full of blood
. . . cease to do evil,
learn to do good;
seek justice,
rescue the oppressed,
defend the orphan,
plead for the widow . . .

That's got to be the toughest biblical passage for liturgical scholars. At least it always has been for me. But at the moment, I'm beginning to hear it differently. Because suddenly I've realized that Isaiah is proclaiming these words in a context that had been fraught with worship wars for a very long time.

This emphasis on "correct" worship goes deeper than mere instructions on how to perform an effective ritual. It has everything to do with relationship. The instructions God was giving the people of Israel were not mere busy work. They are not evidence of God's peculiarities. They are the means God provided the people to be in relationship with God. They were a way to cultivate and care for that relationship without being consumed by the Holy One. Not only that, but they were a way of maintaining the people's memory.

When Jeroboam set up two golden bulls and told the people that these were the gods who had led them out of Egypt, he was re-writing history. He was writing Adonai out of that history. And in doing so, he was destroying the possibility for the people to be in relationship with Adonai. God becomes un-known.

The God who led the people out of Egypt was a God who cared fiercely for justice. A God who heard the cries of the people. A God who rescued the oppressed. When the people of Israel forgot the character of their God, then their worship was truly empty precisely because it had ceased to be relational.

This vision of worship does not see God as the object to be worshipped. (As one might worship the golden bull.) Rather, God is fully subject, the Other, the known and inexhaustably knowable. God is exactly the opposite of the object receiving worship from this perspective. God is the one who wants desperately to be communicated to and through the people. Who wants to provide the people with a means to come into God's presence without being consumed.

It is for these reasons, as well, that Jesus' statement in the gospel of John seems even more radical than I'd ever thought. When he is addressing the Samaritan woman at the well, he tells her:
You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship God must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:22-24)
Notice he speaks of worshiping "what you do not know." This suggests the alienation from God that had clearly happened over time. The people had ceased to know the character of God.

Okay. That's enough for now.

Peace.

Worship at the Center

I have been wanting to write something and never seem to find the time to do it. I have only a minute or two right now, but thought at least I'd get some very beginning ideas now and build off them later.

One of the things that is impressing me most as I read through these texts is just how much of it is focused on the worship of the people. Mind you, I'm studying for my PhD in liturgical studies--so I am rather predisposed to noticing this. And I think it's because of my reading context that I am noticing it in a way I never have before.

The "sin of Jeroboam"--as it's referred to again and again in 1 & 2 Kings--has to do with worship.

I love when Isaiah shows up in 2 Kings, by the way. And I hear the echo of the first chapter of Isaiah that goes on and on about empty worship (worship separated from acts of real justice).

This is the very quick tidbit I have time to write at the moment. I'll revisit it later.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Don't ask...

I keep falling behind. regretfully. I have not given up yet, nor do I plan to, but I don't think I'll ever catch up - not a problem for me though. Takes the pressure off :)
I tried skipping ahead to catch up, but then fell back behind, and now I don't want to skip ahead again. So I'm going to go back, and try to keep pluggin away at it. I find this very difficult, and yet I'm not sure exactly why. It could be A.D.D.? It could be that over the years I usually do my reading at night, so I only get a few pages in before sleep, so now when I do read, It's like a trigger for sleep? I don't know. But... I'm still in this, I just will be bringing up the rear is all :)
Where? Oh alright, I guess I should confess... I'm still in Leviticus.
Latest thoughts? I'm a bit shocked at how a lot of these people we are reading about are not nice people. So much talk about death too - Look at someone cross-eyed and you are to be put to death.
Anyone else fallen behind in this marathon race? :) I feel like I'm in the Boston Marathon, stopping at every water station, and maybe even ducking into a local bookstore to read a magazine before heading back out into the race.
Well, I'm off now to get a few more pages done - and maybe a drink of water too :)
I'm ROOTIN for you guys in the front of the pack! Way to go!

Testing One Two Three .... Check .... Check ....

Where am I?

Yeah, ummm .... I had jumped on board with this group somewhat early on because, although I was the instigator of the previous spot, life made me drop out somewhere into Leviticus. But, since you all were still somewhere in Exodus, I figured that gave me a little wiggle room to pick up where I left off and be back on track again.

Except .... somehow I lost track of it, playing the "Oh, well, I'm ahead of where they are and so I don't have to jump on immediately" until I realized that I was behind. Again. So I haven't posted anything because I'm just trying to catch up. So where am I right now? The computer room. Probably finishing Numbers tonight.

My Bible's back in my bedroom, but the one thing that I do remember being very confused about (besides the whole "adultry potion" that someone else already mentioned) was with the whole Balaam story. So ... Balak wants Balaam to come with him. God tells him not to go, so he doesn't. Then Balak comes back; this time God tells Balaam to go, so Balaam goes. But, en route, the Angel of the Lord comes to get Balaam because God is mad that Balaam went? Even though God told Balaam to go?!?!?

Course, the Old Testament God does have kind of a reputation for occasionally being a bit impulsive and fickle ....

Check In Time

Alright, folks. How are we doing?

It occurred to me today that I could post a link to the daily reading, if that would make it easier for anyone.

And I'm wondering if we're all around the same place? Or all over the place at this point?

If you're up-to-date with the Easter Sunday start, you would be in 1 Samuel right now. Here's the passage: 1 Samuel 2:8 to 1 Samuel 15:14.

Leave a comment (or better yet a post) and lets find out where each other are.

Grace and peace and blessings and grace and grace and grace and grace and grace . . .

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Leviticus On the Way Home from the Office

I haven't posted in a while. First I took a little break 'cause I worried I was dominating the blog. Didn't want to be a blog-hog! Then I got a little behind in my reading. Then I got distracted. And now I'm finally writing.

I'm pretty much caught up. I think I'm a day behind. Thanks to Songbird for mentioning that you've found reading the entries on the computer screen through the Zondervan site to be more helpful. I gave that a try yesterday as I put in a marathon session to catch up and I found it really worked for me, too. (Something is happening to me. I used to think I'd be the last one to prefer a computer screen to a book, but I'm not so sure anymore.)

What I do miss the most when reading off the computer screen, though, are my notes from seminary (and the footnotes in my Oxford edition). But last night I leafed through my seminary Bible and was able to make a bit more sense of things later.

Here's a cool thing that happened the other day. I had the privilege of taking a man home from church. He is a seminarian from Trinidad. Brilliant. Committed. Deeply concerned about justice, especially among the impoverished in our cities. He's also Seventh Day Adventist, a tradition I know next to nothing about.

He mentioned that the biggest differences between his tradition and mainstream Protestant traditions are that they hold Saturday as the sabbath (and day of worship) and their dietary laws. "We don't eat any unclean foods. Like shellfish: no crab or shrimp." I asked if that meant they keep Kosher. "No," he answered, "We follow the dietary rules found in Leviticus and Deuteronomy."

"Oh, sure." I answered, "I was just reading those instructions this past week." :) It made me feel very legitimate. :)

I have more to write about, but I'll keep it here for now. You know. The blog-hog thing.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Still Playing Catch-Up

I'm in Numbers 5 this morning (don't even want to really know how far behind I am; I'll look it up later). How did you all feel reading about the actions taken when a man feels jealous, whether or not his wife has done anything wrong? I have read this before, I know, but for some reason I didn't remember this particular chapter. I find it deeply distressing. It illustrates the dangers of swallowing scripture whole, not taking the trouble to read it in context. The last verse is chilling:

31The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.

Friday, April 28, 2006

online tracking

After posting yesterday about how I was behind and not sure about what day we were on to catch up, I remembered Jen told me about the official website that once you sign up (for free) it will provide you with the day you are on, and what verses you should read AND you can read the verses online (or print them if you don't like trees).
There are also additional features (Like a large blog) that I have not had a chance to go through yet.
Go to: http://www.biblein90days.com

You'll see a tab/box about registering. Enter your starting date of Easter Sunday (4/16/06) and that's pretty much it.
A belated thanks to Jen for this.
-cyen

In the reading I did last night, it struck me... I wonder how short the Bible would be if you eliminated all the repetition? I wonder if that will be the next translation from Zondervan... A Bible edited for content :)

Numbers 11

I must say the dialogue between Moses and God in Numbers 11 sounds oddly familiar. Is there a pastor alive who hasn't asked God what s/he had done to deserve being stuck in the wilderness with such a bunch of whiners?? I particularly like the part where Moses tells the people God is going to send them so much meat, "it will come out their nostrils and become loathsome to them." I've had days like that.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

I've fallen...

Perhaps the first of this group to have fallen behind?
(For some reason this does not come as a surprise to me ;)
I had a 4-5 day vacation mixed in and didn't want to carry another book on the plane with me, so I thought I could just borrow my sister's Bible when I got there. She never gave it to me! (Did I get a rise out of you Sis with that comment? ;) She did give it to me, but usually by the time I got around to reading it I was so tired from that day's events that I only made it about 2 chapters until my eyelids were slammed shut.
So I'm way behind. I'm going to take my sister's advice and skip a portion then try to come back to it, so that I can stay up to date with the the rest of you. I'm going to finish Exodus, then catch up. So I hope none of you give away the ending to the book Leviticus!
So what day are we on now?
-Cyen

I'll add my comment about Exodus here even though most of you have passed this point...
Was it me, or did I mis-read the comments in Exodus...
During the time when Moses and Aaron were bringing all of the curses upon Pharoh and his land, it said that God had "hardened the pharoh's heart", Yet God was the one coming up with the curses? I didn't get this point at all. This also seems to go against free will.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Still behind, but--

Isn't it fascinating that the rules for living together in Exodus 21 - 23 are so focused on the material possessions that refugees would be unlikely to have? They really extend to what would be needed for an established community of farmers and herdsfolk. This is the kind of section that makes a good argument for not swallowing the Bible whole, so to speak, but for seeking the context and learning what history is available about the early documents. It's not unlike solving a puzzle.

And sometimes it's not a puzzle, but an image so universally human that when it was written down matters not a bit:

7The Lord said to Moses, “Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; 8they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt! Exodus 32:7-8

Yep, been there and done that, in my own imaginative way. We human beings are still striving to get the message, aren't we?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Hey, maybe it has something to say to me!

Okay, kidding a bit, because I absolutely believe the Bible has something to say to me. But today I was reading Exodus 18(yes, I'm a little behind, still working to catch up with the group), and after all those plagues earlier on, and a feeling of disconnection from the so-familiar story of Moses and Pharoah, I was surprised to read something that hit me right between the eyes.

The next day Moses sat as judge for the people, while the people stood around him from morning until evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, “What is this that you are doing for the people? Why do you sit alone, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?” Moses said to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. When they have a dispute, they come to me and I decide between one person and another, and I make known to them the statutes and instructions of God.” Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You will surely wear yourself out, both you and these people with you. For the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. Now listen to me. I will give you counsel, and God be with you! You should represent the people before God, and you should bring their cases before God; teach them the statutes and instructions and make known to them the way they are to go and the things they are to do. You should also look for able men among all the people, men who fear God, are trustworthy, and hate dishonest gain; set such men over them as officers over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Let them sit as judges for the people at all times; let them bring every important case to you, but decide every minor case themselves. So it will be easier for you, and they will bear the burden with you. If you do this, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people will go to their home in peace.” (Exodus 18:13-23, NRSV)

One of the things I have found tricky about coming to pastoral ministry as a mother is my impatience with delegating tasks I know I can accomplish more quickly myself. And there is also the seductive lure of believing I know better, since I am the one with training and gifts and skills...and eventually craziness, from trying to do too many things and be too many people all at the same time.

A wise woman I admire greatly once described her hopes for a colleague, that the colleague might "learn how to do less." I feel such a need to read more and write more, and I look around the work part of my life and see so many commitments, all interesting, but all encroaching on that time for developing the inner life, for doing "self-care," for making those nursing home calls with the regularity I would like.

Thank you, Jethro, father-in-law of Moses, for putting it so clearly!

Leviticus

I have to say I'm finding Leviticus tough going. It's hard to keep your eyes from crossing with boredom on all those tedious details. But there are also (certainly unintentional) funny parts. Like you can eat grasshoppers, but not pigs. And whenever they mention a wave offering, I have visions of high school football stadiums trying to get a "wave" going. I really have to hand it to our Jewish bretheren and sistern who created the whole Talmud thing to make this more interactive and interesting--perhaps more creative than the Christian solution: this doesn't count anymore, just skip it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Barnraising

A few days behind in posting...I like how in Exodus the people are "stiff necked", making golden calfs and all, and God breaks in and gives detailed instructions for a group project, the tabernacle. I guess God figures it'd be good to get them working together on something, maybe that'll help them to get them focused. So they all go and get the goat skins, earrings and yarn that they have and it gets incorporated into the tabernacle. Then they buckle down and get to work together. I like the image of a sacred place woven together of common items from lots of folks.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Distance & Resonance

This time around I have been experiencing the distance between now and then perhaps more than anything else as I read. And for some reason, I have felt some sadness about this, almost like grief. Because it all starts to feel merely foreign and in that way, irrelevant.

And I feel genuine grief at this thought because for some years now the Bible has resonated with me. And I mean that in the same way that a note vibrates to life as the bow moves across a string. Scripture has had resonance in this way. As if my own life would vibrate into being whenever Scripture came into contact with it.

I'm wondering if maybe it is the breakneck pace of reading through so many chapters in such a short amount of time that makes me feel the distance more than the resonance. There is no time to savor, as Lorna warned us would be the case. There isn't time to let the words (the Word) do their work in me. So the surface repels. I read of oxen and blood. And altars. And mountains. And thunder. And pillars of cloud. And 'angels' going on ahead. And legal codes for murder or theft. And I skim off the surface of the page and think: "What does this possibly have to do with us?"

But the question itself, as I ask it, seems to drive me deeper. It has everything to do with us, in a way. I am constantly astounded by God's attention to detail. In Genesis, God opens wombs. In Exodus, God is concerned with fabric, and goats' hair, and sending manna like dew for daily meals. And the intimacy with God when God eats and drinks with the people. With all God's bluster (and there is a lot of bluster), God is still so accessible. Moses meets with God face to face to discuss daily concerns.

When I take the lens of relationship to my reading, then I encounter a God who longs for it. And I see to what extent God goes to experience that relationship with humanity. This does not seem distant to me, though the oxen and the blood remain that way. When I experience it all in terms of relationship, then I feel the resonance again.

***

Having said this, I know that part of the grief I am experiencing right now has to do with all of the ways Scripture has been misused (ab-used) over the centuries. In Genesis when I read of Noah and his sons, I thought of the ways that text was used to justify slavery. When I read of the grand plan to remove every remnant of the Canaanites, I think of the land struggles in Israel/Palestine going on today. When I read about Sodom and Gomorrah, I grieved for the abuse of this story to oppress GLBT folks.

And for this reason, I feel like I'm also embracing the distance that I experience as I read. When we don't feel that, when we think that it all must apply directly somehow, then horrible, horrible things can (and all too often do) result. There is some gift in acknowledging "that is not me. Then is not now."

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Where are you up to?

Hi fellow travelers,

I have embarked on what should be a interesting journey with you. Unfortunately started a little bit after you and so am already playing catch up!

I have printed of the Zondervan Reading plan to try and help keep me on track.
Where are you up to so I can try and join you hopefully by the end of the week end?

Blessed reading

Revem

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

:: travelers together ::

Finishing Genesis today
Wow! This is amazing...I thought I "knew" so many Bible stories...reading in big chunks like this is bringing it back - and more to life.
BTW, I'm Dana. I'm 41, a seeker, a mom, a teacher; raised Catholic, although I have recently joined a wonderful American Baptist church.
Genesis, what to say? Yes, it is snowballing like a soap opera in fast forward: the births, affairs, deceit, broken deals, bribery, murder, etc.
Shock: the Dinah story, Leah & Rachel and all the handmaidens and ALL THOSE CHILDREN! And Tamar tricking Judah!
Questions: Who is Jacob wrestling with (Gen. 32:24.) Is it God? And Gen. 38:9 "And Onan knew that the offspring would not be his;" - why did he think if he slept with Tamar and she got pregnant, it would not be his child?
NOTE: If you haven't read The Red Tent make a note to yourself to do so after this Bible read. It tells the women's story from Dinah's point of view, as a young girl growing up with Joseph and the brothers. Also, Walking the Bible is about one man's search through the Holy Land, to see if he could find any of the "real" spots and his noticing the connection to the LAND and faith. It's a good read for people like me, without much historical and geographical background...

Still here

Just a quick note to say that I'm still here and still up-to-date. Things have been hectic for me lately and I still have not found a notepad to keep by my side for this, but I hope when things calm down I'll be able to post more. What are we on now, day three only? I can see that this will be tough to keep to the 90days, but I can also see that this is "do-able".
I am going to throw a few random thoughts out here... Wish I had more time to formulate more for this post...
These opening stories are like a bad day-time soap opera!
I'm struck by how "silly" some of these stories are... Imagine building a tower to reach God... And then God being afraid that it may just work...?
We're given the entire creation of the universe/world in a few chapters, but it seems more important to chronicle family genealogy?
The part where Abraham is "negotiating" with God on the destruction of Sodom just struck me funny as well. This is GOD we're talking about right? He's trying to argue with Him like a little kid trying to eat his broccoli with his parents.
I also struck by all the killings, fear of killings, lying, child birth, prejudice, slavery, sleeping of who with whom, etc... Some of these people are not "good" people.
I'm also taken with how they are almost bragging about having enough children to populate an entire city! This seems so very important to them to populate large areas with their own.
I'm also noting how there is a sort of bragging to how much "bling" each brother/family has... When I read about how "x" has 30 sheep, 30 cows, 40 servants, etc... I am picturing that in today's terms... "x" has 30 plasma TV's, 30 SUV's, etc...
Well, all of these topics could be expanded upon immensely but no time now... Must read... :)
PS> I am finding that it is better for me to read half in the morning when I first awake, then the other half at night.
PS2> I really like the post-it note idea too.
-cyen

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

We've been blessed . . .

Phew, getting into some of the hard-to-stomach texts again, especially the story of Dinah. Awful.

I'm too zonked out tonight to write anything. But want to encourage our blog members to read the comment left by Lorna (see-through-faith) in the first entry of our site, here. It's a beautiful blessing.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Uz the Firstborn, Buz his Brother (Gen 22:21)

Okay, this entry has nothing to do with the title. I just got to that line in the reading tonight and it amused me tremendously. Uz and Buz, huh? I've got an image of Larry, Darrell and Darrell in my head from the 80s Newhart show. :)

Tonight's reading impressed me in its distinctiveness from yesterday's reading. Those opening chapters of Genesis are so swooningly cosmological--such grand stages, this creation of the earth and its peopling! this banishment from paradise and the eventual destruction of the world! this coupling with the Nephalim and the building of gigantic towers that ascend into heaven itself.

Then, the intimate space of Abram and Sarai. Of intimacy, betrayal, pregnancy, slaves, newborns, odd deals, and so on. No less drama then the opening chapters, but the camera has gone from extremely wide angle to extreme close up.

Though a larger story is being told as well. We discover the origins of the peoples that Israel will encounter in her future. (So the Moabites and Ammonites are children of incest. They must just love that narrative beginning to their histories!)

I simply love Genesis. I love the way it places us, yes, with all that cosmological stuff. But I also love the fraility of the people depicted in the pages we read today. I certainly recognize myself in them. All the times I get it wrong.

Maybe it's just where I am right now, but I sure did notice this time that God took God's good ol' time in taking the first step of fulfilling the promise to Abe.

Day One, Genesis 1-15

DanaMarie wrote below:

First, struck by how Moses can't write! Reminds me of a terrible Danielle Steele book I was stuck reading - it was so horribly written and repetitive I wanted to throw it across the room. Moses needed an editor!

Well, I wouldn't blame it all on Moses! I believe most scholars today would tell us the "Books of Moses" were actually written by about four different authors, then edited together by one redactor. This explains certain repetitions and contradictions. The redactor made a choice to give the reader as *much* as possible, it seems, and that results in both confusion and riches. Think about the family stories you’ve heard that are told slightly differently by Grandma and Uncle Joe and Cousin Hattie. There’s truth in all their versions, but what is ultimate truth?

The images of nakedness struck me as well. Nakedness without shame means living in vulnerability and openness, to God and to one another. The “knowledge” gained by eating of the tree brings shame about our natural state that is still with us. Interesting that learning to be ashamed brings about punishment.

I like to read these stories trying to get inside what the authors wanted us to know about the human condition and their understanding of our relationship to the divine, by whatever name they called the Creator. These early stories about God/YHWH/Elohim sound much like stories of other gods in the same era – walking and talking with humans, not knowing everything, getting fed up with humans, fearing that humans will become like gods. Poweful, yes, but all-powerful? It’s such a contrast with Genesis 1 and the God who breaks forth all matter from chaos into forms that support life.

I'm reading from the NRSV given to my son when he was confirmed, mostly because it's light enough to hold in bed, unlike my gigantic HarperCollins Study Bible. I'm kind of wishing for the large print, however, and may go and look for the TNIV later in the week.

On to Chapter 16! (More passing off of wife as sister! What was that guy thinking?)

Sunday, April 16, 2006

: : travelers together : :

Genesis
Well, I started. Very excited! First, struck by how Moses can't write! Reminds me of a terrible Danielle Steele book I was stuck reading - it was so horribly written and repetitive I wanted to throw it across the room. Moses needed an editor! Anyway, lots of interesting parts and questions...ONE is "We shall make man in OUR image..." I don't know what the "we" is....
And I gave much thought to the Tree of Knowledge. I was struck by the “eating of the forbidden fruit.” Why was it forbidden??? Gen. 3:5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
I was wondering if this is like innocence?? Verse 6 says “the tree was desirable to make one wise,” and wise is the opposite of foolish, and wise also means good knowledge.
After Adam and Eve run and hide and clothe themselves, God says, “Who told you that you were naked?” I wonder if that is like our loss of “innocence” or signifies humans and the more “base” part of life. Like, “Who told you that you were NOT okay? Who told you that your skin color was not okay? Or, who told you that you were stupid, not good enough, not “enough” in general?”
It’s like when we’re children, we’re pure, we’re enough and we’re okay. It's like before Adam and Eve at the fruit. Then, later our eyes are opened by.....cruel parents, or other kids, or by JUNIOR HIGH or adolescence or trauma, or loss or something…..is that “eating the fruit? And gaining knowledge?
Then we know we are “naked, and we are ashamed,” or we know we are "too fat, too thin, too short, too mean, too nice, too dark-skinned, too light-skinned..." too whatever...like after Adam and Eve at the fruit.
I've just never understood the whole forbidden fruit thing....and this stream of consciousness I spewed above came out today....Goodnight, happy Easter all...

Day 1 - Opening Impressions

I knew it had been awhile since I'd opened my bible when I found the first pages of Genesis all scrunched together with a big creased wrinkle in them. Terrible! So my reading time began with trying to smooth out the pages.

So far I'm using my bible from seminary, which has all my notes from my Old Testament class penciled into the margins. (It's actually a great joy to go through them again.)

This time reading Genesis, I was noticing a few things: that God asks Adam where he is hiding and God asks Cain where his brother is; that nakedness shows up in Gen 3 after the fall and in 9:19 immediately after the flood abates; how quickly we get to Abram and the promise (12:3) after the creation/destruction stories; the way the tower of Babel seems to pair with the flood in the same way the second creation story pairs with the first.

Such beauty in those first pages of Genesis!

And finally, my question: what is the deal with the Nephilim (6:4)??? :)

First step...

What's that old saying? A journey of 1000 miles begins with the first step... I've taken that first step today.
I just went out (I know I didn't have to, but any excuse to go to a bookstore is a good one!) and bought the 90 day bible from Zondervan. I almost ordered it through Amazon, but thought, Let me check the store first. B&N didn't have it, so I went over to Borders and although they didn't have the exact one that I wanted (I was going to get the "TNIV" version) I did get the NIV version ($19.99). NOTE: After reading one of the comments on the amazon.com site about the poor printing, I have to agree. The pages are SO thin that the ink from the other side of the page, and the letters from the page behind it really bleed through making it tough to read. I hope I will get used to this. I plan on using a "slip sheet" of white paper to back up the page that I'm reading.
So... Step one down, and onto the actual reading part :)
Well, 38 minutes and sleep overtook me. Not a good start, but I'm going to get back to it shortly after I finish this post and have a snack. I may have to break my reading up into two parts per day...
Cyen

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Blogging through the Bible in 90 Days

Inspired by the wonderful site Blogging through the Bible in 90 Days, but arriving too late to join in their journey, we are embarking on our own journey of Reading the Bible in 90 Days and blogging about the experience here.

If this idea interests and inspires you, I invite you to send me an email and join in with us. We're using the reading guide outlined by Zondervan on their website (click here). The goal is to go through the whole journey together, with some accountability to one another. But we hope the process will be invitational and not another drudgery on your already too full To-Do List.

We will begin our journey on Easter Sunday! But you can join in anytime. Just send me an email and let me know you'd like to travel together with us.