Monday, November 16, 2009

You know that old saying, "When you assume..."

you make an ass out of yourself and just make God more godly and clear.

I've been working on a novel for NaNoWriMo, and I've written over 15,000 words so far.  I really like it a lot.  The purpose of NaNoWriMo is just to get those words out of you.  They don't have to be good, and you shouldn't edit. Just WRITE.  The goal is 50,000 words by midnight on November 30th.  I was nervous to start, but the book has just been pouring out of me and I'm really having fun and mostly like what I've written.

Here's the rub: it's not necessarily a Christian novel.  (GASP!) And I, dear reader, am planning on being some sort of pastor. It's not like that alone is a problem.  Sheesh, I'm not a complete shut-in and don't cater to those who would get their panties in a knot about that.  The thing is, there's s-e-x in the book.  Um, not "within the bounds of marriage" s-e-x.  The aforementioned activity is considered a mistake and is dealt with- it's sort of the premise of the book- but when it happens, it's also kind of fun.  I think I'm being real in the book by not pretending that all sin absolutely sucks when you're engaging in it, but there are consequences.

To recap: Adultery: it's fun! Oh, wait, it sucks.  There are consequences, repentance, and God is mentioned, but I'm not shooting for a Christian novel vibe. I really don't know if there would be any sort of audience at all for this book with the mix of sassy & Christian I'm working. There's no salvation prayer uttered, OH, and there's swearing.  Just a little.  I'm trying to portray real people that are also Christians trying to live their lives. 

I've asked a couple people what they think of the general concept & whether it's okay for me to be writing this book.  The stupidity of me? I never asked God about it until yesterday.  Here's the assuming part: I got the idea at the beginning of this year and actually started writing it back then.  And this month, I've been cranking on it and really enjoying it.  So, I assumed that because I had the inspiration and it was flowing, that God was okay with it. 

But yesterday, 6 of us were walking (limping) back to the car after our half marathon, and suddenly decided to go to church.  The worship was rocking, so we went a-knocking.  It was great and beautiful, and our stinky butts decided to stay for the whole service.  (Seriously- we were still in our nasty race clothes, numbers on our shirts, medals around our necks.)  The pastor was talking about hearing from God and told us all that God would be telling us something during service.  He spoke of different things you could hear: Stop, Pause, Rewind, or Fast Forward.  These corresponded to (duh) stopping something you may be doing, pausing and seeing if maybe you're doing something for the wrong reasons or rushing headlong into your own plans, the need to completely repent and get on a different path, or the word to go ahead and jump. 

What I think was my word from God was an exact sentence that the pastor said: Press the pause button and bring it into the light.  And, really, I wanted to kick myself.  How was it that I was talking to other people about it and not God? Duh, Robin.  Duh. 

So, I've put it before God.  I haven't gotten an answer yet, and I'm going to wait a bit and see if I get a yes or a no.  It may be that it's fine, but I needed to stop and think and bring God into it more, or I may need to stop.  We'll see. 

Friday, November 13, 2009

God is funny when he gives you the smackdown

Well, I guess I didn't get an actual smackdown today, but more along the lines of God whistling a bit, sidling up and sliding something into my view.

So, I'm minding my own business this morning, fixing to read James (favorite!) both for a paper and to spend some time in The Word™, and I see 2 Thessalonians.  "Hmmmm," I think.  "I need to find a passage for my exegetical paper, and I don't really spend much time in 2 Thess (I can call them that) and don't really know what it's about, so I'll read that today.  Good idea, Robin!"

The title for this blog entry should be a link to 2 Thessalonians online.  Go ahead, read it.  But only if you read my angry, quite sure of itself post on Revelation.  I'll wait.

Didja read it?  Did you laugh? *sigh*  So, I think I'm going to pick something out of there to write my paper on, just so I can try to figure it out.  For those of you who didn't read it and would like me to just go ahead and tell you what I'm talking about: it's all about what we would call the Anti-Christ, End Times freakishness, and Jesus punishing people.

Of course, I didn't read about 1 Thess. for class when I was supposed to because I was being lazy.  You can bet your bottom dollar, though, that I'm going to get my textbook next time I feel like getting out of this chair and I am going to expect Achtemeier, Green, and Thompson to explain the stuffing out of this book.

It really does feel like what I've learned about Apocalyptic literature: Paul says that he's encouraging a church going through trials and tribulations, so it makes sense that the drama would be amped up about God's saving power and how good will triumph.  But being that it doesn't have the imagery and clear craziness of Revelation, it makes it even more confusing when he talks about the man of lawlessness, etc.  Especially since I can't easily read it as referring to a historic situation.

*sigh*  It doesn't really surprise me at all anymore when I think that I finally have something figured out about God and then find out I'm wrong.  It should surprise me even less when things about the Bible confuse me, but I guess that since it is a physical thing that can be studied and examined somewhat, I keep thinking we'll be able to wrestle it down.  Even though I also know that it isn't possible, my insane human brain keeps trying.  Oh well.

Monday, November 09, 2009

I'm writing about Revelation now...

...because i told you I would. So I am, but I'm not completely in the mood. Of course, I often start posts thinking that I'm not going to write much, but then they end up flowing right out of me. So here goes.
I'm talking about the book of the Bible, folks. The End Times. Mark of the Beat and all that rot. And, no, I'm not using "all that rot" in a twee sort of lazy way, I mean it. It's rot. Garbage. A load of crap that I've been sold most of my life, and I'm angry.

I was raised to take Revelation very literally, or at least to take what certain preachers, authors, and movie makers said about it very literally. I was told that things were very clear: the world was going to get worse and worse. There would be pressure on Christians to get the Mark of the Beast, and the government or corporations were going to be very sneaky about it- it could simply be your debit card that you used in the future cashless society, but it would most likely end up being a barcode or something- always including 666- that was tattooed or somehow implanted in your arm or forehead.

Debit cards weren't around back in the '80s, so the idea seemed much more sinister. Of course, we were also told that it will all make sense- the one world government, the cashless society. It would all be logical and seem to be for the best of society, but we faithful few must remain vigilant! We would have to refuse to get the mark or else we weren't going to heaven. I mean, you could possibly repent at some point, and as long as you chopped your arm off or otherwise maimed yourself to get off the offending mark, you could go to heaven a proud sufferer.

So I was always questioning whether or not I was Ready. Ready to not deny Jesus, even if someone held a gun to my head. Ready to run- across rooftops, over water, wherever we needed to hide from the Anti-Christ and his minions who wanted to get us for not getting the Mark. Ready to scavenge for food and shelter because we couldn't buy anything anymore without the Mark.

And what if I wasn't taken in the Rapture? You see, there is variety on when, exactly, the Rapture will happen. Before the Tribulation? In the middle of it? After? Who knows? Well, some people really think they do. But just in case, I needed to be ready for some rough times ahead. Get my game face on. Don't be afraid of torture and guillotines. (Yes. Guillotines.)

Why, do you ask, have I chosen to shed my hopes for this triumphant future? My answer is eleventy-fold, but I'll just share a couple with you:

  • People who promote these beliefs talk as this sequence of events is all quite clear in Scripture. NOTHING IS CLEARLY LITERAL IN REVELATION. John's language even shows us that he's not providing us with a snapshot. Most of his descriptions are really just comparisons where he's trying his best to paint a picture of things he couldn't really describe. "A loud voice like a trumpet," or "the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian. A rainbow, resembling an emerald..."
  • This is the same sort of language found a)throughout the OT and b)in Apocalyptic literature. Yes, there is a genre of Apocalyptic that existed centuries before Tim LaHaye got in the game. This genre was usually written in a time of persecution or crisis and was meant to encourage whatever group was targeted to stand up and be strong. It stirs up hope and belief that God sees and is truly in control. Look back at Isaiah and Jeremiah, for example. Do you take what they say to be literal, word for word truth? Did the stars fall from the sky at the fall of Tyre?
  • Revelation is also prophecy, which does NOT always mean that it is predicting the future. Prophets have the role of speaking God's words, calling the people back to obedience, and explaining God's point of view on matters. Revelation could very likely be showing God's point of view on the persecution under the Roman Empire that was taking place at the time it was written.
  • Rome. Much of what is in Revelation can quite easily, with very little decoder-ring action, apply to Rome. The woman sitting on 7 hills is clearly Rome, the number 666 would have very clearly referred to Nero to the recipients of this letter. Hmm, I wonder if Roman money had a picture of the Emperor on it?
  • Revelation is a letter. A letter written by someone who knew the situations in these churches and was writing to chastise some and encourage others. If the entire thing was meant as a riddle that only we geniuses in the 21st century could figure out, how would that have helped the early Christians being killed for not worshiping the Emperor?
  • In the parts that are clearly addressing the 7 churches, many of the things that some take to be code are really just inside jokes. Laodicea had their water brought downhill via pipes from the hot springs of Heirapolis. It was lukewarm by the time it got to them and got stinky, sulfury, and sick-making when it was stored in their cisterns. "Satan's throne" in Pergamum refers to a gigantic, frigging altar built to Zeus on a hill above town. It's in a museum in Berlin. It would be like referring to the Sonoma Aroma when writing to us here.

It was in my Systematic Theology class a couple years ago that I realized that many, many Christians don't take Revelation literally. And I was floored. I couldn't believe that there were other ways to look at The End Times and, for the first time in my life, I felt like I had permission to be optimistic. Like it's not naïve of me to want things to change for the better, or to work for peace, or to not be afraid of a charming world leader.

Does this mean that Revelation has nothing to offer modern readers? Not at all. The lessons for the 7 churches are still valid for us today, and it is important to remember that God has a different perspective on life in the world than we do. We get caught up in our daily problems or blessings, not always realizing that there are strong spiritual ramificatons to our actions or that things are very different for people down the road or across the globe. Revelation reminds us that God will wipe away every tear and that we will overcome not through violence and fighting but through the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony.

eta: Of course, since it is so ingrained in me, I reserve the right to keep one eye open and freak the hell out if things start lining up as predicted by Kirk Cameron. I rail against manipulation, fear-mongering, and much authority, but I'm not completely stupid.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Baby, it's dark outside.

I'm a little torn about this daylight savings time stuff. First of all, I'm not up in the morning to enjoy that misplaced hour, so it saves me diddly-squat. Secondly, it cramps the running style, being that my neighborhood isn't all that hot in the safety arena.

On the other hand, it does feel a little cozy to be home and snuggle up with my man when it's dark out. And going out at night feels a little more special, like we're actually doing something, even if it's just going to the grocery store. The problem is that I'm much less likely to want to leave the house once I'm cozy and snuggly at home in the dark.

When we first moved here, I was so disappointed to find that it got dark early here in the winter. I thought, "No! It's sunny California!" Hopes were dashed and all that. I'm used to it now, and I'm ready for winter. Maybe it won't be 80 degrees soon.