Tag Archives: God

Letter to Ptolemy

If God is the sun and we are the earth, how wonderful to know that we are the ones with the moody weather and awkward tilts and furious spinning, while the sun remains to never cease shining its emanations through our clouds and fog and rain and clear skies all the same. 


Note to self: Time heals.

I want you to know this: time heals. If you’re in a situation of a tough life transition, dealing with something like a messy breakup or mourning a death, I want you to know that this is true—or can be true. When I felt like life kept spitting me in the face, I didn’t like to hear that the passage of time was going to be the best healer. In the society we live in, time takes a long time when we’re used to instant gratification.

But today, I found something that made me realize it was (maybe painfully) true. I found a bunch of post-it notes near the back of the clutter on my desk—I had known they were there, but I just hadn’t looked at them in a couple weeks. And so I read through about 30-something sticky notes scrawled with royal blue permanent marker every uncensored thought that had come into my head when I had sat in my dimly lit room feeling more lonely and empty than I had ever felt in my life. What I held in my hands was a pile of curses, fears, lies, and desperations. I read through them all and I found myself breathing a sigh of relief; although those feelings were very real at the time I had written them, I could sense that those curses, fears, lies, and desperations had—for the most part—left me since then. To know that my soul had begun to lift the shroud of darkness gave me hope.

If you are in the same sort of place I was in—do this. Get a pad of sticky notes and a marker, find a quiet place, and write like nothing else matters. Write everything out—no filters allowed. If you’re a person that is cautious to use profanity, (as I was), just let go and use it; if it’s already in your mind, it might as well be written on paper. You have to get everything out there so you can release it.

What you write might scare you; it scared me to see what my emotions looked like written down. But after you’ve exhausted your mind and your hand, take the notes and put them away somewhere—in a box, a drawer, whatever. Then leave the room you were in; physically making yourself walk away from your thoughts will distance them from your mind. Go do something—go exercise, go to a store, start some homework—but what I’d say is the best approach is to meet up with someone you trust and talk to them about how you’re feeling or just do something with them.

And the next day, go do something again. You have to fight by making yourself do things and connecting yourself to the people you love if you are going to survive. And also search for answers—find out how to heal, read about how other people have found healing, too. Lay in the middle of a field and stare up at the night sky. Talk to God or something. You may believe he’s checked out of your life for now, but if you pay attention, you might find him in more places than you’ve been aware (even if it’s in a friend or in sunshine).

A couple weeks, a couple months later, take out the notes and read them—all of them. See for yourself the ways you have changed since then, the ways you feel or view things differently—and for the things that maybe haven’t changed, know you still have time to figure these out. But my hope is that you’ll find, as I did, that time—paired with the willingness to keep walking every day and keep seeking counsel and love from friends and keep looking for answers—heals. Take heart.


A broken truth

“Dear God, why should I think you’re good in a world that’s falling apart?” –Showbread, The Fear of God

Suffering.

Babies starve, the helpless are raped, and hearts break. And where does our good God stand?




It is a broken truth. I refuse to believe that God is not good, but that also means I must accept his hand in suffering. Whether or not God ordains suffering or simply allows it for his manipulation, I do not know. I do know these few things, though: that the goal of my life is not to be happy, it is to flourish–to live my life with strength and potency as I proclaim the love of Christ. And though I would never wish suffering into being, if my desires get in the way of this true flourishing, and suffering is the only way to drive me away from them, I cannot curse God. I know without doubt that the small sufferings I have experienced in my life have shaped me into a stronger person.

Last of all, I know this: I would much rather have God, the one that went through the ultimate suffering for the good of saving me, be in control of my suffering than an evil force. I want to be able to look up in my weeping and see my Lord’s hand stretched out to me, to see in his eyes that he knows the way to guide me through the darkness, and trust that his end is the good.


The fallacy of independence

Where do we humans get such notions in our heads like “I don’t need anyone, I can do it on my own…I am an independent person!”? And I know people think like this, whether they know it or not, because I often have this mindset.

While I know that humans are “interdependent” and whatnot, I find avoiding an independent mindset a difficult task for me. Yesterday, though, I decided that the notion of independence is rather silly.

As I was riding my longboard back to my dorm, I began to fancy it was my “modern-day” horse, since longboarding is this car-less college kid’s method of travel these days. Anyhow, that thought turned into the realization of how dependent I was on this piece of wood with wheels under it. See, I’m the type of person who looks at the clock and says, “25 minutes until my next class on West Campus? Sweet, I’ve got time,” and then says 15 minutes later, “Oh, I better get movin’!” Therefore, the expedience of the longboard is rather important to me.

Everyone is dependent on something, especially in this age of technology. Just stop and think about the fact that when we flip a switch we expect a light to instantly destroy the surrounding darkness, or that we don’t even think twice about drinking water from the tap. Think about what your life would look like if your car broke down, if your cell phone fell into a deep body of water, if your refrigerator stopped working, if your house burned down, if your laptop got stolen, if the internet everywhere crashed, if you lost your key to your dorm room (for some of us, that’s a constant reality), if the microwave stopped working, if the local supermarkets closed down, if you lost all of your prescription eye-wear, if your roommate ate all of your pencils and pens, if cows ceased to exist, if every printer in your vicinity ran out of ink, if all of our purses and handbags were raptured, if someone sang so high that mirrors everywhere shattered…and the list goes on.

And, of course, those are just material entities. What about people? Say everyone you were even slightly acquainted with died, then see if you can tell me you don’t need help from anyone.

What about what is intangible? Like justice? Or hope? Or kindness? I don’t even want to think about what the world would be like without the human instinct that drives us to try to love.

The truth is, the average human is a dependent mess. So why is it so hard to admit that we need a God to depend on, too? “I don’t need God as a crutch”–why, because you can’t fit one more crutch under your arm?


In the beginning…Part Three

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, saw it was good, but then he had to destroy everything with a flood because humans messed it up. Right?

Well, nothing is that simple.

In my Bible class, the professor directed us to look closely at the pre-flood world and the post-flood to help us draw conclusions about what significance the great flood in Genesis really had.

As we examined and discussed, the stereotypical idea of God–a powerful deity angry enough to wipe out his unruly creation–started to become increasingly false.

In the pre-world flood, after the expulsion from Eden, what was the first major event? The murder of Abel by his brother, Cain. God responded by saying:

“‘What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth.'”

Cain complained he would be killed…

15 But the LORD said to him, ‘Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.’ Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.”

According to Jewish law, Cain was not really punished; he should have suffered death for committing murder. And in Genesis 4: 23-24, a similar story takes place, when Cain’s son Lamech was also protected from death after he murdered a man.

But note how God said the earth swallowed up Abel’s blood, and therefore the ground became cursed because of it. In this pre-flood era, God seemed to put less emphasis on personal guilt than on the fact the earth had become defiled through bloodshed. Genesis 6:11-13 follows this concept:

“11Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. 12And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. 13And God said to Noah, ‘I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.'”

From these passages, it seems God cared more about the affects of sin rather than sin itself; the people weren’t simply horrible sinners, they were killing each other and defiling the land by the bloodshed. I think that is the real issue God has with sin–as much as we would all like to believe sin is personal, it always ends up affecting another.

Therefore, the rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights.

After the land dried up enough for the inhabitants of the ark to come out, God established a covenant with Noah (Gen 8:20-9:17), saying first:

“I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

God continued to tell Noah and his descendants to “be fruitful and multiply” the earth, and prohibited them to eat the blood of an animal or commit murder, at penalty of death.

At a close glance of this new covenant, each element favored the human race’s existence; rule 1: have lots of babies, rule 2: don’t eat raw meat, rule 3: don’t kill each other, and if you do, you will die so you can’t kill anyone else.

I don’t know what you’re seeing here, but this is what I see: a God loving enough to be willing to clean out the earth and give it a fresh start to keep his creation from corrupting and destroying itself any further.

End of Part Three.


In the beginning…Part Two

In the beginning, my Bible class found out two creation accounts exist in the book of Genesis.

In the beginning, we also found out parallels exist between the book of Genesis and a Babylonian creation story.

Ooh…interesting.

The story, called Enuma Elish, I have summed up in a brief nutshell version (at least compared to the seven original tablets):

In the beginning, there was the god of freshwater, Apsu, and the god of saltwater, Tiamat. They came together and produced little gods, but eventually the little gods became so loud and annoying that Apsu wanted to destroy them. One of the gods, Ea, heard about it and didn’t want to die, so he killed Apsu. Angry that her man-god had been killed and encouraged by the god Kingu, Tiamat decided she must now destroy the other gods. Ea’s son, Marduk–god of the Storm–rose up and offered to kill Tiamat on the condition that the other gods would make him supreme over all and allow him to create the world. The gods heartily agreed, and Marduk lured Tiamat into a duel, taunting her until she rushed to him, infuriated. When she opened her mouth to retort, he blew a storm wind into her, incapacitating her. Marduk then slew Tiamat’s and finishes her off by ripping her body in two and using one side to separate the waters of the sky and the other to separate the waters of the ocean from the land. He set other gods in the sky as heavenly bodies, and then Marduk and Ea created humans out of the blood of Kingu, so the gods would have people to do their work.

At first glance, this story may seem not very similar to Genesis, but…

Genesis 1: 2, 6-10–“2The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters…6And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.’ 7And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. 8And God called the expanse Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, the second day.9And God said, ‘Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.’ And it was so. 10God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas.”

So, in the beginning, there was chaos, and the waters were separated to make the sky and divide the land and sea. In the beginning, Tiamat, the unruly saltwater goddess was separated to make the sky and divide the land and sea.

Fascinating.

The concept of creating humans is not dissimilar, either; in Enuma Elish, the gods create the humans to work the earth, make food for them (sacrifices), and build their houses (temples). In Genesis, God sets forth humans into the garden of Eden, giving them the land to till to produce food, as well as dominion over the rest of creation. In Enuma, man was created from the blood of a rebellious god, and in Genesis 3, man rebels from the LORD God.

In addition, this Enuma was traditionally recited every new year, the time of the harvest, in the Babylonian temple of Marduk. Genesis 1 also was recited at the new year in Solomon’s temple.

Now, the fact that these two creation stories have similarities may not completely terrify–quite a few creation stories I have heard bear some similarities. It might be slightly unsettling to know that Enuma Elish was dated previous to the writing of Genesis, though.

Here’s something else that may seem a little disconnected, but worth considering: what genre is Genesis 1 told in? Historical? Well…not really. Like Enuma Elish and many of the other stories told around that time, Genesis 1 seems to have the personality of a mythic tale.

No, I’m not saying Genesis is a fairy tale; the Merriam-Webster definition of myth is: “a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon.”

Personally, this concept was very new to me. Genesis, mythic? I don’t know what to say…

Except for that stories such as C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia hold more revelations of truth than many “non-fictitious” stories.

End of Part Two.


In the beginning…Part One

My Intro to Biblical Literature professor has been kicking my Sunday-school-kid mentality in the butt since the first day of class.

To give us a “basic foundation,” before diving into the main material, he began by teaching about Genesis, and I will never think about the creation of the world the same way ever again.

Now I’m going to give you a taste of what I’ve been feeding on for the past month.

Part One.

At times I’m very skeptical, at times I’m very trusting of information. Apparently with the Bible, I’ve let myself trust a little too much…in such a way that I’ve never completely realized, much less questioned, the fact that there are literally two wholly different creation accounts: Genesis 1 and Genesis 2.

Genesis 1 is probably the most well-known version: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth…” And it goes on in a structured, poetic form to list the order of each creation God commanded into being in a chronology of six days: light, sky, land and plants, heavenly bodies (sun, moon, etc.), aquatic animals and birds, and finally land animals and humans. In the process of creating mankind, God notes how he decided to make them in his own image and give them rule over the animals and earth, and finishes saying all that he made was “good.” On the seventh day, the Sabbath, or the day of rest, was given.

The Genesis 1 story carries over a bit into Genesis 2, but then another story begins, which is not a connected continuation of the first story, but rather a completely different perspective. Told in a narrative style, it begins talking about how nothing was on the earth except for streams the LORD God caused to carry water up from the ground. And then the LORD God made man. Out of dust and his own breath. Then the LORD God made the garden Eden, along with every amazing plant and tree ever, giving it to the man to grow food in. Then some rivers are mentioned, and then the LORD God formed all the animals to give to the man to name and  help keep him company…before realizing the man was still kinda lonely, so then the LORD God made the man fall asleep, took out a rib, and made the woman. After the man got over losing a rib, he finds himself very pleased with his new beautiful friend.

Compare the two stories. Honestly, the only similarities I see between these two accounts is the idea that God created the world and everything in it, and that’s it. Everything else is different: the order, the time frame, the means…even God’s personality is different between the two–in the first story, doesn’t he seem more distant, powerful, and perfect? Whereas in the second, doesn’t he seem more down-to-earth, hands-on, even trial-and-error-ish? Oh, and not to mention, there is no Sabbath mentioned in the second account…

So then, it seems rather probable that two different people wrote two Genesis, no? I mean, each separate account has a different name for the creator; in the first, he is called “God,” which was translated from elohim, and the second called him “LORD God,” which was translated from yhwh (the meaning behind those names are a another story…). But is that okay?

What should the believer’s response be? Is our faith jeopardized by two seemingly contradictory creation accounts? Are they indeed contradictory? Or are they simply two varying perspectives of a vast God? Can a faith have two “different” beginnings?

End of Part One.


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