Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Fun and Productive first Day of Vacation (mostly)

My vacation officially kicked off at 6:30 last night as we were invited to be a part of a cruise on the St. Croix River.  It was all a part of a friend's celebration of the 25th anniversary of her ordination.  So her congregation sponsored a dinner cruise for her and her family, as well as some of the members of her congregation.  They had a great dinner, a fun program honoring her (my husband wrote a song in her honor) and a three-piece dixieland jazz band.  My husband and I liked them so much, we started calling out the songs we wanted them to play (It Don't Mean a Thing, St. Louis Blues, Washington Square).  Then toward the end of the cruise they came over and serenaded us.

I finished up a pair of bright blue cabled footies as a little present for my friend.  I actually put the finishing touches on the toe while we were driving out to the party.

This morning my husband made breakfast.   I started knitting a washcloth using a cotton blend yarn.  (I am avoiding the sweater.)

I got a pedicure for the first time in a long time, and then bought a new pair of sandals (aren't they pretty?) 

I made a mistake in the washcloth and ended up ripping up the whole thing and starting over.

I finally got some financial work done, and paid some bills. 

We took the car in (one of the tires has been deflating) and found out there was a screw embedded in it. 

We walked up to the grocery store to buy coffee and sandwiches.  The ice cream truck was there and they were offering free ice cream sandwiches.

We bought a new coffee pot.  (That is exciting!)  I returned some defective merchandise, and got a new item.  I drooled over ipads some, and asked questions about them. 

My husband got a massage.

And when we returned home, we discovered a charming movie was on, one that we had never seen before:  "I Know Where I'm Going." Wonderful, enchanting movie about a young woman who has her whole life planned out, and is going to marry a rich man in Scotland.  Except that this storm is getting in the way....

Reading the Bible in 90 Days, Day 29: 1 Chronicles 1 - 9

If you blink, you'll miss the prayer of Jabez, snuck into the middle of what is mostly lists of geneologies.  Yes, that famous prayer to increase his territory, it's just two verses in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. 
"Jabez was a better man than his brothers, a man of honor.  is mother had named him Jabez (Oh, the pain!), saying, "A painful birth!  I bore him in great pain!"  Jabez prayer to the God of Israel.  "Bless me, O bless me.  Give me land, large tracts of land.  And provide your personal protection -- don't let evil hurt me."  God gave him what he asked." 

So, there you go.  The prosperity gospel in a nutshell.

Other than that, these chapters are mostly filled up with names:  mostly who was in who's family, as well as David's worship leaders and the priestly cities.

Though they are seldom named, it occurs to me:  where would we be without the mothers?  For this list is not so much about the exploits of the people of Israel, but who was born to whom. 

Also, though this is called "The Chronicles", it occurs to me that the chronology is very different.  In chapter 9 the author is already on to the family tree of Israel after they return from exile.  But afterwards, we'll hear more about the families of Saul and David

Tomorrow:  1 Chronicles 10 - 23
Friday:  1 Chronicles 24 - 2 Chronicles 7

Monday, June 27, 2011

Reading the Bible in 90 Days: Day 27, 2 Kings 5 - 15

We alternate back and forth between the kings of Judah and Israel.  Israel's kings are almost unremittingly bad, with one or two (Ahab's son) just a little-less-bad.  (Jehu is the one exception; he is anointed by Elisha the prophet and gets rid of all of the Baal followers.  He tricks them and tells them he's going to serve Baal even more than Ahab, and then when he gets them all together, he has them all killed.)

 Judah has some bright spots, although even most of the "bright spots" had some failings. 

There are also several fantastic tales of the prophet Elisha, Elijah's successor.  The one I liked (I had never noticed it before) was about how the guild of prophets are going to build a bigger place, with Elisha's permission.  They are chopping wood and someone drops the axhead in the river.  So Elisha tosses a branch from a tree and drops it in the river and the axhead floats back up.

This little story is in the middle of wars and kings totally wiping each other out.  It seems kind of out of place.

I can't help thinking that the story of the kings can't come to a good end. 

Tomorrow:  2 Kings 16 - 25
Wednesday:  1 Chronicles 1 - 9

Saturday, June 25, 2011

"Thank You, God"

This past week was week two of our Vacation Bible School Marathon.  On week 1 we have a program run by one of our church camps; it's sort of like going to Bible Camp without actually going away.  The only thing missing is the campfire by the lake.

This second week is staffed by -- us -- the Children's Ministry Coordinator, a huge staff of volunteers, many of them junior and senior high school students.  We have traditional Bible School in the morning (although current curriculums stretch the definition of 'traditional') and in the afternoon, field trips.  I take a more active role the second week as well.  I am a large part of the team that introduces the story and the theme of the day.

This year's program (many of you will recognize) was "Pandamania:  where God is 'wild' about you!"  Though it was a great and well-written program in many ways, I'm still trying to solve the mystery of why it is called "Pandamania." 

Anyway, I have to say -- I just have about 1/2 an hour a day (as well as preparation time, of course), and I'm still exhausted every day.  This year we built an altar to Yahweh (and sacrified a candy bar instead of a bull, thank God); we made crafts representing the day of creation; we got inside a smelly "great fish" to hear part of the story of Jonah, and we ran into Peter while hiding from the Roman right after Jesus' crucifixion.  Whew!  I get tired even writing about it. 

I need better vitamins.

Every day's lesson included a short phrase and the response:  "Thank you God."  So on Monday, we learned that God Made Us.  "Thank you, God!"  On Tuesday, we learned that God Listens to Us.  "Thank You God!"  On Wednesday, we learned that "God watches over Us.!"  "Thank you, God."  You get the idea.

The idea is also to say "Thank you, God!" AS LOUDLY AS YOU CAN.

Some things worked better than others.  Not everyone appreciated the authentic 'fishy' smell inside the fish, for example.  The fish had a slight malfunction as well.  But building the altar was terrific, and right before we were going to call on God to send fire on our sacrifice (candy bar), a firefighter rushed in to warn us!

The best was when Peter came to visit us.  There we were, hiding in the chapel.  Peter burst in, and  ended up telling us his whole story, how Jesus was his best friend, all the things he saw, and how he let Jesus down.  He felt so bad I thought he was going to cry.

Then I asked the children if they had any words for Peter, to make him feel better.  They did.

"Don't feel bad, Peter," one said.  "God will give you a second chance."  "Jesus loves you and he's always your friend," said another.  "Jesus will take you back," said another one.  "Jesus will help you," said someone else.  "Don't give up!" I heard someone say.

Thank you, God.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Reading the Bible in 90 Days: Day 23 -- 2 Samuel 13-22

Here are names to remember: 
Bathsheba and her husband, Uriah the Hittite, and the Prophet Nathan.
David had many sons, but here are two: Amnon and Absalom. 
David's Daughter Tamar.

There is war in the family, and battles.  And it all begins with David and Bathsheba.  David is the King who has everything, including the love and the blessing of God.  But he covets his neighbor's wife.  And Nathan the prophet pronounces judgment on him:  that there will be conflict and battle in his own household.

And that is what happens.  Amnon rapes his sister Tamar.  Absalom wreaks vengeance and Amon is killed.  Absalom is exiled.  When he returns, David still won't see him.  Absalom becomes beloved of many of the people of Israel, and he makes himself king, tries to get his father killed.  And yet when Absalom is killed, David weeps:

O my son Absalom, my dear dear son Absalom!
Why not me rather than you, my death and not yours,
O Absalom, my dear, dear son!

Yet David, for all his flaws, was still beloved of God. 

There's a little scene in 2 Samuel 16, when David is runnning for his life, because Absalom is after him.  A man named Shimei son of Gera is  throwing rocks and cursing David.  One of David's men wants to kill him, but David says, "my own son, my flesh and bone, is right now trying to kill me; compared that this Benjaminite is small potatoes.  Don't bother with him; let him curse; he's preaching God's word to me.  And who knows, maybe God will see the trouble I'm in today and exchange the curses for something good."

There's something incredibly expansive in that attitude -- Hearing God's voice in both the blessings and the curses.

Then in 2 Samuel 22, David sings a song of thanksgiving to God.  I love these words:

"God rewrote the text of my life
when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes."

Maybe it's just that particular metaphor for forgivceness that I like. 

May God rewrite the book of our lives as well. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Reading the Bible in 90 Days: Day 20, 1 Samuel 3 - 15

The boy Samuel goes to live with Eli the priest, and hears the voice of God (a rare occurrence in that time).  God gives Samuel a word of judgment regarding Eli, and it turns out that Samuel is the pivotal person between the time of the judges and the time of kings in Israel.

God doesn't want the people to be ruled by kings "like all the other nations."

But, to be honest, they're not doing too well under the judges.  The plot continues to be that the people forget God, they follow other gods, God sends them a judge and somehow they come to repentance and defeat their enemies.  Then a little later they forget all about God again...


Saul is chosen as Israel first King.  He stands head and shoulders over everyone else....literally. ( Even now, it seems that some people do equate height with leadership.) 

Saul does well in battle.  He rules for many years.  But he makes some mistakes.  He's insecure.  He hedges his bets.  He makes stupid oaths (you are cursed if you eat before we are done with the battle!). 

By 1st Samuel 15 Saul is already on his way out.

Tomorrow:  1 Samuel  16 -28
Wednesday  2 Samuel 29 - 2 Samuel 12

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reading the Bible, Day 18: Judges 4-15

Wow, what happened to Joshua?  The people came, they saw, they conquered.  that's how Joshua went, in quick couple of days of reading.  There were a few battles mentioned (remember Jericho?), and the Israelites came in and took possession.  They divided up the land.  Joshua said, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."  The people promised.

So, now I'm in the middle of Judges.  The judges were the tribal leaders God sent from time to time to guide, and fight battles, and get the people back on track.  Because remember Baal?  The people kept turning away from God and following Baal. 

Do they ever learn?
Do we ever learn?

(instead of Baal, insert:  money, sports, success, your nice house, Target or any other retail establishment, your own particular brand of politics, war, etc. etc. etc.)

So we've had several stories of judges, including Deborah (had to mention her) and Gideon.  Reasons I like Gideon:  he doesn't think he's the likeliest candidate for a judge.  He asks God to do the fleece test TWICE, once where the fleece is wet and the ground is dry, and one where the ground is wet all EXCEPT the fleece.  I also like that God tells him to take fewer and fewer people with him into battle, because, as God puts it, "I don't want you to say that it's because we're so great and so strong that we won.  I want it to be clear that you won this battle because of my guidance." 

Now, we're in the middle of the story of Samson, one of the unlikeliest instruments of God Ever, in my humble opinion.

Tomorrow:  Judges 16-1st Samuel 2.

pssst (the short, lovely book of Ruth is right in the middle of that reading)
Monday: 1st Samuel 3 - 15

Thursday, June 16, 2011

I Don't know What Got Into Me...

Recently I went and downloaded a book about the early Pentecostal movement, called Heaven Below.  It's written by a church historian who grew up Pentecostal, and is now Methodist (I think).  It's a pretty scholarly book, with lots of footnotes, and it researches all aspects of those early years of pentecostalism, from the role of race and class, from the strict morality and the interpretation of scripture, from church conflicts to the role of women.    The book recounts the prayer meetings and the overflowing emotions and different interpretations of the gift of tongues. 

I'm a Lutheran, brought up going to church every Sunday, singing the hymns out of the red book.  Hardly knew there were other Christians (except my Catholic friend down the street) until I was at least in high school.  But I spent some fervant times among the charismatics and Pentecostals when I was in college and just afterwards, and those times still haunt me, on occasion. 

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I were invited to a play.  One of his adult students, a gifted pianist and composer, is a teacher at the Apostolic Bible Institute.  I didn't know, but it sounded suspiciously like a Pentecostal type of place.  I googled it, and it turns out the school is run by the United Pentecostal Church.  I knew a guy who was United Pentecostal when I was at college.  Uppity woman that I am, I used to argue with him about the Trinity.  (I also (ahem) had a theological discussion with a guy about infant baptism once, which was why he didn't ask me out again, I guess.)

But I digress.

We were invited to this play, a great production based on the story of Samson.  It was really quite clever, although I will admit I was hoping that there would be music.  As the sanctuary filled up, I noticed that there was only one other woman with short hair.  Every other woman in the place had long long hair, and many women had their long hair put up in elaborate ways. 

I felt a little like a Gentile.

But before and after the play, the President of the Bible Institute came out and led some praying and singing.  One of the choruses was "Praise the Name of Jesus".   As I was singing along, I thought my husband was looking at me with a funny look, as if to say, "is there something I don't know about you?"

I recently read a book by a man who is a kind of neo-Pentecostal in the Lutheran church.  He said that he couldn't imagine anybody being an ex-Pentecostal.  I've met some, though; a woman I met at a book signing who said she grew up Assemblies of God and "had enough church to last the rest of her life."  One of my friends in college doesn't call herself a Christian any more, as far as I know. 

In most ways, I don't suppose I'm Pentecostal any more.  I think that God comes to us in ordinary ways more often than in extra-ordinary.  I believe the Bible is the Word of God, but that we have this treasure in the clay jars of human words.   I like liturgy.  I don't find it empty of meaning, and don't think of it as rote repetition. 

I do, however, still believe in the power of God to transform our lives, re-orient us, not just once, but again and again.

And sometimes, I do miss the Sweet Sweet Spirit.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Reading the Bible in 90 Days: Day 14, Deuteronomy 9 - 23

I do love portions of Deuteronomy, that long sermon Moses preached just before the Israelites go over from the wilderness into the promised land.  I love the admonitions to remember, and not to forget, who you are and what God has done for you; I love the exhortations to tell the children the story.  I love how, in Deuteronomy's version of the ten Commandments, the Command to Keep the Sabbath is not on account of God's rest on the seventh day, but instead because the Israelites were slaves in the land of Egypt. 

Sabbath and Freedom are connected.  And your freedom is connected with freedom for other people.  (If you rest, your family and your servants and even your animals can rest.)

What I heard a lot of in reading today was this:  don't even be tempted, when you become prosperous in the land of Plenty, to forget what God has done for you, and believe that it's because you are so great that God blessed you.  You are not so great, God keeps telling them.  You're stubborn and whiny and you continually forget me and go after other gods.  But in spite of that I have chosen and blessed you.

Don't take my blessing for granted, God warns them.

Tomorrow's reading:  Deuteronomy 24 - 34

Sunday, June 12, 2011

My Sunday

I begin, as is traditional, on Saturday evening, and not just because we have a Saturday evening service.  But, we have a small traditional service on Saturday evening, in our chapel.  The chapel has a small pipe organ, which is out for repair all summer.  So, we had traditional worship with piano instead of organ this week.  A few of the people at church were worshipping on Saturday because they were going to be working for our Pot Luck Dinner today (lots of food and bring a dollar for World Hunger).  They wanted to hear the sermon, I guess, which makes me smile.

Someone wanted me to mention the Dinner and invite people to give a dollar, even if they couldn't come today.  So they did.

After church we were invited to a graduation open house, a family who had moved out a way from our community, but still somehow makes it in to worship more often than not.  I had never been out to their house, out in the country, but we got directions from Mapquest and set out.  We drove and drove and drove and did not find their house, so gave up and went home. 

This morning I got up early even though we had decided only to have one service at 10:00 (in honor of the pot luck).  I made tuna pasta with pesto, so that nobody could say, "the pastor never brings anything to the pot luck.")  (By the way, nobody has ever said that.)  I got to church pretty early, so that I could make sure the mikes were set up for the people reading in different languages, tie a couple more ribbons to the fan I was using for the children's message, practice my sermon.  oh, and I wanted to make sure that someone I invited to church didn't come at 8:00 today -- the only time all summer we're not having church on the lawn!

The organist began the service with Spirit of God, Descend Upon my Heart.  The band then continued with Ev'ry Time I Feel the Spirit.  Six people read John 3:16 in different languages during a break in the Acts reading.  The children left during the sermon to make colorful streamers, which they brought in later in the service.  We processed around the church with the streamers, singing 'We are Marching in the Light of God.'

I have to say, those streamers were SO COOL.

Afterwards, I prayed for a woman who is having surgery this week.  Prayed for the food before the pot luck.  Ate the pot luck.  Saw the 5th grade graduation paper of one of our students (I think he's proud).  Saw directions taped to my door if I ever want to try to get to this family's house again.

Then I went home, with just a little bit of tuna pasta with pesto left, which my family ate.  I took a nap. 

We had salad for supper, and watched Laurel and Hardy try to carry that piano up the stairs.

Oh yeah, and I do think my sermon turned out pretty good.

Reading the Bible in 90 Days: Day 12, Numbers 22-32

I didn't post yesterday (I won't be able to post every day), but I do recommend everyone who is reading along to make a few notes each day about what you read.  In yesterday's reading is the serpent of bronze, Eldad and Medad prophesying in the camp (Would that all of God's people were prophets, Moses says), and  Israel's first look at the land of Canaan.  (almost everyone is sure that they could never defeat the inhabitants in battle; that's why God tells them that generation will continue to wander for 40 years).


There is more counting.  After the new generation rises up, the tribes have to be counted again.
I loved the little vignette about the daughters of Zelophehad.  Since there are no male heirs in their family, they demand a share of the land.  What's the word?  Assertive.

I also loved reading the extended story of Balaam, and the many attempts of Balak to get Balaam to curse the people of Israel.  (Balaam kept telling them, "I can only say what God tells me to say.  I can't curse people that God has blessed.")  Balak keeps showing Balaam the Israelites from different vantage points, and the answer is always the same.  Makes me muse about the nature of blessing and cursing, about prayer (I just prayed for healing for a woman after church today), about telling the truth.  Do we measure our words, or just say what comes into our heads?  Are we as concerned as Balaam about what is true?

So, it made me sad later on when the Israelites battle the Midianites and kill Balaam son of Beor. 

The Midianites (and especially the women, it seems) were responsible for leading the Israelite men away from Yahweh and to worship of Baal.  Baal is going to continue to make appearances throughout the Old Testament.  If you're going to turn away from God, you have to have a few false gods lying around to turn toward. 

Though I am in no way condoning the Midianite women, may I say this?  No one can lead you astray without your permission.

When we get to Joshua and Judges, I'm afraid we are going to have a whole lot more bloodshed to deal with. 

Tomorrow:  Numbers 33 - Deuteronomy 7

Friday, June 10, 2011

Reading the Bible in 90 Days: Leviticus 27 - Numbers 8: Day 10

Numbers is called numbers because there is a lot of counting going on:  counting the men 20 and over by tribe and clan, counting the Levites, counting the firstborn of every tribe.  There are 603,500 men over twenty in the wilderness right now, excluding the Levites, who are consecrated to take care of the Tabernacle, and the Ark, and the Sacrifices.  There are 22,763 Levites (I think), and there are 22,000 firstborn males.

Women and children?  Nothing said about them.

It's clear that part of the counting has to do with who is going to do the fighting.  This is the army of the Israelites.

There's this part about how you handle it if a man suspects his wife is having an affair and is jealous, but doesn't KNOW it.  He takes her to the priest and the priest pronounces a curse, (making sure that if the guy is just jealous the curse will not be activated, but if the wife is unfaithful it will), and if the wife truly is unfaithful she will be barren.  And sick.

I can't help thinking:  what if the man is unfaithful?  Doesn't matter. 

This is what people mean when they say the word "patriarchal."

tomorrow we read Numbers 9 - 21; Sunday Numbers 22 - 32

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How to Read The Bible in 90 Days

Some of you might think that this post should be titled, "Why Read the Bible in 90 Days"? for that, too, is a good question.  There are programs to help you to read the whole Bible in a year, which seems challenging enough.  Why read the Bible in 90 Days?  In fact, to go even further, why read the whole Bible at all?  Why not stay with the 'snippets'? 

David Plotz wrote a book called, aptly enough, Good Book, in which he re-counts the things he learned when he read the whole Old Testament.  (Plotz is Jewish.)  It's funny, and enlightening, and sobering, too; in the end,  he did not feel that his faith was strengthened by his project.  He ended with more questions than answers.   If you read the whole Bible, whether in a year of 90 days, there will be plenty of things to make you go, 'hmmmm.'   There will be things that make you say, "the Bible is a very strange book."  And there will also be plenty of wonderful surprises too.  I'm telling you this, and I'm only in Leviticus.

There are plenty of reasons to read slowly, and carefully, smaller segments of the Bible.  There are plenty of reasons to take short passages of the Bible and read them in a small group, and discuss what they mean, and what they mean in our lives.  But that's not how to read the Bible in 90 Days. 

If you are going to read the Bible in 90 Days, you're going to have to read a chunk a day.  Most of us have other things to do during the day (working, making supper, sleeping, for example), so I'm going to make a huge generalization and say that when you read the Bible in 90 days (or so), you're going to read quickly, you're going to skim a bit, and I'm telling you now that it's ok.  I give you permission to do that.  We're going for the big picture here.  If there are things you don't understand, that's okay too.  Nobody understands everything in the Bible.

I am reading from Eugene Peterson's paraphrase The Message.  Some people might consider this cheating.  I do not.  I am reading the Bible in 90 days (I hope), not studying the Bible for 90 Days.  I know that this is not a study Bible.

As you're reading, though, notice a couple of things that picque your interest.  Don't try to think about everything.  Notice the things that catch your eye, and take some time to think about those things.  If you're a writer, you might want to keep a diary of what you've read, and the things that make you go, 'hmmm.' 

Of course, there are pitfalls with this method.  I, for example, more often than not notice myself focusing on the women in scripture.  (I can't figure out why that might be.)  In other words, sometimes we gravitate to certain themes or stories in the Bible, the ones that we like or that intrigue us.  There are other themes that are annoying or disturbing to us.  We might like to sweep those under the carpet.  What you ignore in the Bible tells you as much about yourself as what you gravitate toward.   In fact, you might take a little time somewhere along the time to consider:  are there parts of the Bible that I am consistently ignoring?  Are there people I am more interested in and others I am not interested in?   Who are you favorites?

As for me, I already know that I have warm feelings toward the people in the Bible who, when they are called by God to some impossible thing or another, say, "Who?  Me?  You must be mistaken, Lord."  And there are several people like that, by the way.  (See, for example, Moses and Gideon.)

Best wishes on your continued reading.  We're in this together!

Reading the Bible in 90 Days, Day 9: Leviticus 15-26

Let me just say:  it's not easy to deal with all the holiness in Leviticus.  Holy priests, holy people, holy things, being set apart which means being clean, not being defiled by the people and things of the world.  So there are lots of laws, some understandable, some tough to handle.  There is lots of putting-to-death, lots of punishment. 

So, Israel is set apart, not like the other nations.  Don't live like other people.  You are God's people.  Live like it.

And then, in the midst of the talk about Festivals, there's a section about Sabbath.  There's a weekly sabbath, and a 7 year sabbath, and the Jubilee.  Every fifty years, according to God, Israel was supposed to celebrate a Jubilee year.  The land would rest, and they were just supposed to eat what grew naturally.  Anyone who had become a slave would be set free, and be able to go back to their tribe.  Land that had been sold would go back to the original owner.  God definitely didn't want all of Israelite to be owned by one huge corporation.  God definitely didn't want all the wealth to end up with a few people.

I'm starting to think I need to think harder and talk more about money in church.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reading the Bible in 90 Days, Day 7: Exodus 29 - 40

The golden calf episode:  Not one of Israel's finest moments. 

When Moses is gone for so long, there is a leadership vacuum, and the people get anxious.  It seems to me that this still happens.  There are still times in a congregation's life that there is a leadership vacuum, and sometimes, the wrong person fills it, in the wrong way.

Also, can I just say:  the names Bezalel and Oholiab stuck out for me, for the first time.  Who are they, you ask?  They are two people specially designated and filled with the spirit, "with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, in every kinds of craft."  (31:3-6).

Tomorrow:  We begin Leviticus.  Hold on to your seats. Chapters 1 - 14

Monday, June 6, 2011

Reading the Bible, Day 6: Exodus 16-28

Complaining.  Manna.  Water. 
The Ten Commandments.
Many other commandments. 
The death penalty for cursing your parents! (did you notice?)
Instructions for the Tabernacle, for the ark of the covenant, for the priests and their garments.

As a pastor I was most interested in the scene where the lines are long every day with people who are looking for Moses, seeking his wisdom.  His father-in-law, Jethro, gives him some good advice:  Moses should find some leaders from every tribe to deal with the day to day issues that come up among the people.

Good leaders need to create more good leaders, then and now.

Note:  the version I am using for this reading project is The Message.  Sometimes I think it is helpful for the flow of the narrative, but today I was struck that I had to translate some of his language back into terms more familiar to me.  For example The Dwelling = the Tabernacle; the Chest of the Testimony = The Ark of the Covenant.

Tomorrow:  Exodus 29-40

How are you doing?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Reading the Bible, Day 5: Exodus 1 - 15

The Israelites started in Egypt as valued guests.  Suddenly, the ruling powers don't remember Joseph, and besides:  the Israelites are getting to be (ahem) a pretty large minority.  What if they aren't the minority any more? 

As I consider the story of the Israelites and Moses and Pharoah and their slavery and their escape, these things come to mind:

1.  Pharoah is stubborn and keeps changing his mind.  But it is God who makes his stubborn.
2.  Moses keeps mentioning that stammer of his. I for one am getting a little tired of it.
3.  The Israelites make it across the Sea, but they aren't exactly THERE yet.  There's a wilderness between slavery and freedom.
4.  Plagues, burning bushes, darknness, unleavened bread:  these are some of the images in Exodus.

But at the end of today, anyway, the Israelites are singing and dancing.  Tomorrow they may whine and complain, but today they are singing and dancing.  Sometimes I think I can almost hear the melody.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Reading the Bible, Day 4: Genesis 40-50

Okay, guys, don't count on me doing this every day for 90 days.  but for now:

We close the book of Genesis with the story of Joseph.

Two thoughts:

if you ever wondered, just how did the Israelites end up in Egypt, anyway?  -- now you know.

also:  "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good."

tomorrow:  we begin Exodus

Friday, June 3, 2011

Reading the Bible, Day 3: Genesis 29-39

The print is really small in the Bible I'm reading.  Or am I getting old?

Impressions after reading these chapters of Genesis:

Baby wars between two more strong women, sisters Rachel and Leah.
Jacob becoming prosperous despite his uncle Laban's treachery.
And I have to ask, regarding Rachel stealing Laban's household gods:  why does she want the household gods anyway?  Don't they worship Yahweh?  What's the appeal of the household gods?  I ask you 
Jacob wrestling with the stranger, er, God, on his way back to meet his brother.
The stranger = God.  It does give one pause.

The name of Jacob changed to Israel, which means "one who wrestles with God."

The one chapter devoted to Dinah, the one daughter among the many sons of Jacob.  She is silent. 
Unlike Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebekah, Rachel and Leah.  She is silent.
What gives?

Maybe that's the problem. 

Then there's Tamar, Judah's daughter-in-law.  She is not silent, she is not passive, and she fares much better.  Girls!  Don't let the men fight your battles for you!

So now we are on to the story of Joseph, the dreamer. 
At the end of chapter 39, Joseph is in prision, although it seems where-ever Joseph goes, "all things work together for good" for him.

to be continued....

Reading the Bible in 90 Days: Day 2

Yesterday's reading was Genesis 17-28.  God promised an heir to Abraham -- to Abraham AND Sarah.  Abraham Laughed.  Sarah Laughed.  Abraham bargained with God to try to save Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction.  Cheeky of him. 

Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, but Lot and his daughters escaped.  Isaac (laughter)was born.  Hagar and Ishmael were cast out, but God provided for them.

God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac, (Laughter).  No backtalk from Abraham this time.  I confess I'm a little disappointed in Abraham.  If he tries to save Sodom and Gomorrah, why not his own son?

At the last minute, though, God provides for Abraham and Isaac. 

Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for Isaac.  Her name is Rebekah.  She leaves her family (brother Laban -- remember this name!) to go and live with Isaac.  For 20 years she is barren, and then:

Esau and Jacob are born.  Esau means red, and Jacob means heel.  They are twins, but Esau is born first, and so is entitled to a birthright and his father's blessing.  Jacob steals both of them, and then flees.  He has his mother's help in at least some of this.

Then, on the way to visit his uncle Laban, Jacob sleeps with his head on a rock, and sees a vision of angels.

Two things: 
The blessing that Isaac gives to his son -- these are just words, and yet, it is such a calamity that Jacob gets those words, and Esau doesn't.  How is it that words are so powerful?  Why do words matter so much?

for good or for ill, we got some strong women going on here.  Can't help but notice.  Sarah and Rebekah, you are not perfect people.  But you are interesting people. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Read the Bible in 90 Days: Day 1

I'm already a day behind in posting, but I wanted to encourage those of you who might have begun.  Late yesterday I began by reading Genesis 1-16, and just have a couple of observations:

1.  If you start reading, really reading the Bible, there will be some things that make you go "hmmm."  It's okay to have those moments.  Right now we looking at the grand sweep of the stories.

2.  Other than (perhaps) Enoch, there are no perfect people in the Bible.  At least so far.  There are good people, but no perfect people.  We'll see how that progresses.

3.   We're ending today in the middle of the story of Abraham-Sarah-Hagar.  God sees Hagar, though she is an "outsider" and gives her a promise.  A great place for a "to be continued...."