All posts by RaeBear

About RaeBear

I’m as complex (and as simple) as everyone else. Richly blessed, battling depression and anxiety, good days, bad days. I was zapped by God’s amazing love and grace when I was 28, and life has never been the same again. Not always happy. Not a pod person now. And oddly (not-so-oddly?) the love of reading, and especially all thing science fiction, transfuses my reading and understanding of being a Christian. Being a child of an inter-faith marriage transfuses my being a Christian. Being a feminist transfuses my being a Christian. It has been like learning a new language, in a new country. And it has been like coming home. Or falling in love. And there are things that will never, ever, make sense to me. But God’s amazing love and grace, that makes sense. That transforms. My gift will never be to be a “church lady”. My gift will never be talking to strangers. My gift will never be with power tools and mission – trust me when I say things go disastrously badly when I’m involved in mission. Where God can use me, I hope and pray, for the glory of God and the benefit of the people of the God and to build the Kingdom here, at hand and to come, is in biblical storytelling. Not a sweet little blog about how to be a good nice sweet little Christian. A blog that – I hope and pray – opens up and shares the scripture. It isn’t rules. It isn’t sweet. It’s stories. We’re all stories. Stories all the way down.

Picturing Genesis 1-2:3

I’ve been trying to picture a world of “void”, a world where darkness and light are entangled, and where water is wild and untamed and mixed into everything. A world of no boundaries.

And I’m driving to work and it is a foggy day — a really foggy morning, so thick you can see about the car ahead of you but not much more.

All the streetlights are shining, but you can’t see the poles.

You see a wobbly circle of light and dark and rain all mixed up. A ball where darkness and light and water are entangled and mixed up where there used to be a streetlight.

And it is beautiful, a strange temporary beauty.

Perhaps the world is still being created, reborn, made whole. Perhaps it takes a foggy day to see hope.

 

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Interrupted by storms and music

More than thoughts and prayers some music — not to make light of destruction but to bring voice to it, to raise it up. And truly, may those in the path find safety, find rebuilding, find the strength you need, find unexpected joy and respite even in the midst of the storm.

Casting Crowns, Praise You in this Storm

 

Ryan Steveson, Eye of the Storm

Sun and moon and Genesis 1-2:3

Goodness, getting the 4th day by heart is a bit daunting. First off, I sort of drift off thinking about the sun and moon and beautiful stars. As beautiful as Sky! Also, the lights in the dome of the sky were to “separate the day from the night”. Huh! What a fantastical sort of image, of day and night, light and dark, all mixed together up to now. Maybe like the “tao” symbol, as I understand it, where the black swirl has a dot of white and the white swirl has a dot of black. Maybe far more random like the artwork I sort of remember that was all wild colors and shapes.

I know, I know, the point isn’t to stick on one thing, or to imagine this sort of thing…. maybe the point is to do exactly that! The brilliant and unknown “editor” who wrote this down — I have to think they might be rather pleased that I stuck on this mixed up light/dark entanglement image.

But I am very pleased that the God of Order created day and night, seasons, and years, instead of leaving things mixed up.

A bit of Mark 9:38-50

Since the next time I am the layreader it is at the end of the month, I found time to sort out the lectionary readings for that day, and Mark 9:38-50 is the gospel reading. Now this is the rather horrifying passage where Jesus, of all people, is saying If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; if your eye offends you, then tear it out. Who would say such things? And the terrible things that have been said because he said that are terrible. What is going on here?

In the context of the passage, it is clear that he is using exaggeration to try to get the disciples to understand something — the something might be, I think might be: don’t make this God stuff harder than it needs to be. Don’t put up rules and barriers just to create “people who follow Jesus right” and “people who follow Jesus wrong”. If you do the right thing in not quite the right way, who are still doing it right. If you do the right thing in a way that makes someone lose faith — stumble and question and doubt and turn away from faith in Jesus — then you have done right in the wrong way. (I am not touching the whole doing the wrong thing but it ends up being right situation. And don’t do wrong in order to create wrong, eh?!)

Don’t make this whole thing harder than it needs to be. Just be kind and give a thirsty person a cup of water.

Salt does one thing — it makes things taste salty. (Maybe it does more than that, but roll with me here.) So if we’re to be like salt, then we are to keep things as simple and clear as possible.

The hardest thing in this broken beautiful mess of a complex world is how difficult it is to communicate.

Interrupted by Dragon Con & Words for Faith

Dragon Con is a legendary Science Fiction Convention in Atlanta, Georgia, held every Labor Day weekend. And as I write this in prep for Wednesday’s post, we have just gotten back from an amazing time! I’m exhausted, invigorated, overwhelmed…. I’ve been wanting to go to this Con for forever!

And, of course, I went to the panel on “Faith and Spirituality in Urban Fantasy.”  It should have been a lovely cross-over of my favorite things. There is so much to say about the role of a character’s faith and praxis and spirituality in Urban Fantasy, or even science fiction and fantasy on a broader scale. For example, within the scope of Urban Fantasy, think of Buffy (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer cult TV classic by Joss Whedon), Anita Blake in Laurell K. Hamilton’s books, and Mercy Thompson in Patricia Brigg’s books — Anita and Mercy say they are a Christian, and, Buffy’s case, the symbol of the cross plays an important role of protection (and she was pulled out of Heaven, remember). None of these heroines would fit any sort of rigid “evangelical” mode of Christianity.

Our world, but different, and some of it works and some of it, perhaps, does not, but it is fascinating and wonderful stuff.

But the discussion at Dragon Con was not as robust as I hoped for — and I think the reason is that as a society we’ve lost words for faith — we are stumbling just trying to describe basic things of faith in the role of the story. One of the panels said that “faith is the rules and structures of the power of the church while spirituality is your own relationship to your God.” I would argue or at least discuss about everything in that sentence. And yet if your only view of church is one where people are condemned? Or if your only experience of church included some sort of abuse and trust-breaking? How I wish there had been time and words — and safety and trust — to really have a conversation. Could I have said that, actually, I see the way of Jesus as countercultural, as against worldly power, as in fact being a servant spirit — and would that have been in any way understood? That community is vital to forming faith, and that a community of faith is a stronger (if now and then more aggravating) thing than any personal sweet thoughts and feels about God. They can carry me when I despair. They can blow a strong wind of renewal and shake my thoughts and prayers to new directions that I never would have seen alone.

Jonathan Merritt’s new book, Learning to Speak God from Scratch (Convergent, New York) provides much interesting data to exactly this point. Since the 1960s, he says, there has been a loss of usage (by those folks who track this sort of thing and then deep dive into data analysis) of words like “faith”, “grace”, “God” etc.  While his research is very very interesting I was not actually really convinced of his argument until this weekend.

There are a lot of “alphabets of grace” if you are new to Christianity as I was about 25 years ago — but now that might not be enough. To someone as new as I was then, in fact, listening is work. Not taking the language of faith for granted and not being afraid to play with the words of faith. Enjoy learning the words. Merritt’s book is a very good place to start.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis 1-2:3 and the Dome

God says “Let there be a dome that separates the waters from the waters.” And God calls the dome Sky.

I love the Sky. I love big wide open sweeping panorama’s of sky over field or ocean. I love the clouds and the ever changing clouds. I love the rich night sky when you can see it all spangled with stars and the moon sweeping open above you, arc to arc. I love even just the bit of sky I can see out my back windows, which look out to a small woods. The tops of the trees swaying in a breeze. The peace of it. At night the dance of the fireflies, little sparks of little everywhere this summer, in the trees and bushes and grass, creating sparkling patterns of light.

I love the peaceful feeling of being a small part of an immense world.

Already when I practice Day 2, I try to bring some of this immensity to it by looking up, moving my eyes and head in an arc. I smile — of course I smile — with the beauty of Sky welling inside my mind’s eye.

The mystery to me in verses 6 through 8 — why does God not see that the dome and the Sky are good? Are they too foundational, too fundamental? Did the ancient tellers of the story just forget to say that for Day 2? Does my bible have a typo?

Is there something about “separating the waters above the dome from the waters under the dome” that is too destructive — even if it leads to life — to be good? Or too frightening — the wild danger waters covered with darkness are meant to be frightening to the listener. Is it not called good because it is empty?

Hooray for Sky, is what I say. I love the Sky!

 

Genesis 1-2:3 and more on order

I picked up Jordan B. Peterson’s book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018; Random House Canada), at the library completely by random. I’d never heard of him. Well, this is a very interesting book. He’s much smarter than me and I’m sure that many smart people have written all sorts of commentary about this book. Although I’m only about halfway through I would recommend it. I don’t even know what I think about his rules. What I love is how he uses scripture — this is basically a secular book, a philosophy book. And he weaves in writing and wisdom from other faith traditions and literature and so on. It’s really an amazing work. But he uses scripture respectfully and interestingly and well, maybe brilliantly isn’t too far to go. I really don’t know enough to evaluate this book!

Page 33 he explicitly starts his discussion of Genesis 1-2 and order and chaos. On page 44, “Order is not enough. You can’t just be stable, and secure, and unchanging, because there are still vital and important new things to be learned. Nonetheless, chaos can be too much. You can’t long tolerate being swamped and overwhelmed beyond your capacity to cope while you are learning what you still need to know.”

While my focus is far more on Genesis 1, he goes into Genesis 2 and for me — and I have heard quite a number of lectures and explications — this was really interesting stuff.

And here on page 57: “The entire Bible is structured so that everything after the Fall — the history of Israel, the prophets, the coming of Christ — is presented as a remedy for that Fall, a way out of evil. … And this is an amazing thing: the answer is already implicit in Genesis I: to embody the Image of God — to speak out of chaos the Being that is Good — but to do so consciously, of our own free choice.”

In my poor words: to trust (despite serpents and poison ivy and endless war and horror) that there is an order, that things are fundamentally supposed to be good, that we can care for ourselves (not in a let’s-eat-cake way, in a truly healthy way), that we can truly care for others, that the tension between order and chaos can be bridged in a beautiful, affirming, and generative, and creative way; in some small way even by each of us.

In many ways, because Dr. Peterson is a psychologist and a professor and so on, while this is written for a lay audience like me it is also clearly academic and …for lack of better words … deep and rich. His writing is so clear and yet the thoughts evoked inside me later sort of exploded like thought-bombs. It is completely possible that someone who truly has studied this book and these thoughts will be smacking their head going oh-my-she-does-not-understand!

Maybe in a way it is an echo from the TV show “Angel” — when the brooding vampire with a soul, Angel, says something like “If nothing you do matters [world is still going to have evil to fight, still going to be full of death, still going to be suffering], then all that matters is what you do.”

Show up and join in for building the Kingdom of God, in purely Christian language, eh? Which is “already and not yet” here.

So eat something healthy. Get a good night’s sleep. Take your medicines. Exercise.

Love your neighbor.

 

 

 

Interrupted by Poetry

Sabbath, too

 

Some Sundays usually in summer in the heat

In the brightest sunshine day possible

Even with the cheerful breeze hinting of fall’s energy

My heart fails to sing, fails to find the leap

 

Not doubt. Nothing so strong as that.

God’s got this too

But the cloud descends always out of the blue sky

Right when you think never again

 

You can’t sing your way out of this

Just walk through sometimes even on a path

Bikes whizzing by on the left

Moms pushing strollers and other folks jogging

 

It might be a musical’s opening act

We all might burst into song and dance

Feet in unison, arms swinging up in arcs

All our patterns making sense from the sky.

Genesis 1-2:4 and order

One thing that seems to happen to me is when I dive into studying some passage of scripture is that suddenly it is everywhere. It is as if I am given new lenses to look at the world. The vision of the whole beautiful mess of the world being created in an orderly way and it all being pronounced good — this beautiful.

Then I was cleaning a pile of mess in my house — trying to create a spot of order one could say — and found an article in The Biblical Storyteller (summer 2018) by Richard Swanson, he writes “The rabbis say that God has two main names (Elohim and YHVH) because God has two key attributes. When God is called Elohim (translated as “God”), the storyteller is naming God’s Justice Attribute, that quality in God that establishes reliability and regularity. ….But the rabbis say, the other Name of God is even more important. The Divine Name (YHVH) [usually translated “Lord”] names God’s Mercy Attribute. This name is used when God acts to nurture, to heal, to choose, and to restore…..the Mercy Attribute makes life livable, gentle, joyful, and safe. Regularity is necessary (since we cannot live in chaos), but Mercy is creative and life-giving.”

Justice and Mercy.

The character of God in Genesis 1-2:3 is the God of justice and order. And that’s important — that is vital for life. That is the ground. This is the stage. That is what is needed to have life, and have it abundantly, along with love and kindness and peace and joy and…..none of that can exist without life and life cannot exist in chaos. yes?

Even in Genesis 1 let’s not put this order/justice in a box — our God of order must know about the importance of wetlands, for example, even if it isn’t explicitly said. It isn’t just “earth here seas there” in a living world. This could be read as a story that says some things are good and some things are bad. But God simply did not create a binary world. We have a world that is rich in complexity and nuance and interconnectedness. God says it is all good! And our scripture says this life-structure, this gift of order, is meant to be good, it is meant for life and love.

It is in fact not all good in our human understanding — as I am healing slowly from poison ivy I well know this! But I think it would be a bigger error to overlook the complexity that exists or assume that is not a part of what God called good. Binary thinking does no good.

And it would be extremely wrong of me to write about this and not mention how climate change and other things are affecting the world — our only world — and putting life in danger. I do not want to be political on this blog; but it is only responsible to use my tiny voice to urge each of us to cherish our world.

Chaos threatens order, life, justice, creativity, safety, the future….and so on. Being a part of the creating of life-enhancing order, however small a part, is to act in the image of God (verse 27).

FTGOG!

 

Genesis 1-2:3

Until I start working on writing Genesis 1-2:3 out (I’m up through day 4), I did not realize how much repetition that is in this. Beautiful, wonderful repetition. But still — I don’t like the vegetation day! All the plants with seeds and all the fruit trees with fruit with seeds … and it repeats. Of course what is wonderful is that hearing it, at least me, I had not noticed the repetition in a boring way, but in the way that a phrase of music is repeated or repeated and tweaked.

And somehow that makes it even more beautiful — because the earth, the dome, the sky, the seas, the vegetation — everything is created by God speaking. God verbs the world alive.

Perhaps God sings the world alive!