Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

Saline (pt. X)

The first time I dropped in on a wave, really dropped in, I finally knew what it felt like to be in my rightful place in the world. The timing, paddling, pop-up, and steering had culminated into that ever-desired perfect glide. For a few seconds, I spread royal wings and flew. For a few seconds, the sky rolled back to show how it was made of something as beautiful as an abalone shell.

* *

The painting is titled “Theology,” I said. One hundred eyes passed over the piece, consuming its wild blue spilling and plunging. Now they awaited my defense and explanation. 

The correlation is simple, this idea of Sublimity in the character of God; One experienced as powerful, infinite, mighty, and ultimate. Yet when we experience this, we are somehow allowed to live, often leaving full of something like love or respect. The same experience is manifest when I am in the ocean, delighting in its power without it killing me–hence the “theology” of the crashing wave.

* *

It is an important moment in life when you realize that the calmest part of the ocean is the water directly beneath the wave. It is like finally realizing that to dance in the arms of another person, you have to stop struggling to lead your way. It is a moment of enlightenment in which you realize to keep from drowning, you must go underwater. No matter how the white water roars, if you duck below the plummets of the break, there you will find peace. Finally, you must learn to listen to the sea, for it will tell you when it’s safe to return to breathing again.

* *

Noah arrived by my side and with his classic bemused half-grin and complimentary fist-pound. Kick-ass were his first words. Others had offered similar congratulations. But he followed to say something more striking in clarity. Good job capturing the calm water right under the wave. A lot of people forget that part, he said. I looked back at the painting. The effect had been unintentional, but now that he pointed it out, I saw it. And I realized it was something I had known about all along. 


Saline (pt. IX)

There was a lull in the swell.

Look! Dolphins. I lifted my hand dripping with saltwater to point out the dorsal fin tips peeking out of the watery blanket, not many yards from where Jordan and I drifted.

My brother is an extrovert. He laid belly-down on his surfboard and started paddling toward the grey-skinned mammals. I began to follow. There was an exciting fearful tension of wanting to get close and stay far away at the same time. I am an introvert. 

We paddled close enough to hear the sputtering sound of blowhole exhalations. I wondered if they could sense us, what they regarded of Jordan and I. wondered what their underwater world looked like. I regarded them as creature cousins, physically categorized as cetaceans, yet connected to us by a mix of sibling DNA and spirit capacity. 

The scene made me think of a book I had read when I was young, Island of the Blue Dolphins. I barely remember much about it except that there was a tribal girl left to fend for herself on an island, and a lot of imagery of sun-bleached whale bones. 

The dolphin brothers seemed unthreatened by our presence. Their smooth grey backs passed by us calmly, the same way the humpback whale swam by my uncle’s boat when we were giving my grandpa’s dust back to the sea. The way he said goodbye with his whale tail waving in the sky, slowly, nonchalantly.

* *

Is coming up for air by works or by faith? I was baptized by my own volition in the ocean. An overcast day off of Santa Cruz. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. They said getting baptized was like dying and coming back to life. I wonder if it is regarded as literal by some people, similar to the Catholic Transubstantiation. It makes me wish Pastor Chad would have held me under longer so I could remember what dying felt like. Seems that I have been baptized many times since then, with the countless times of getting tossed by rough close-outs, under and back up again, like a soggy ragdoll. That’s when I really knew what resurrection felt like, when I could come back up to breathe again. But maybe that’s by works, not faith, so it wasn’t supposed to count?

Is coming up for air by works or by faith? Someone had asked the same question to Dr. Culp during his lecture. 

Well, technically, breathing itself is αργος, so what do you think? he said, smiling.

* *

Tonight was the night, and the painting was dry just in time. It was carried by four arms and four legs into the meeting hall, to the back wall, in preparation for the exhibition.


“Jesus Dub” videos

Unfortunately, Christians have created some stereotypes about the character of Jesus that are pretty lame. Cheesy old videos trying to document Jesus’ life don’t really help much. So someone took some clips of those cheesy old videos and added some voice-overs to poke some good fun at the lame stereotypes Jesus is often given.

I first saw these clips a couple years ago in high school youth group, and I had totally forgotten about them until one of my friends resurrected them after our Bible study (any irony at all?), and I think they’re even funnier to me now than ever.

They’re pretty short and witty, so have a laugh and check ‘em out.


“God’s love for Osama” post by Josh Dies

In response to the varying standpoints on the death of Osama bin Laden, I felt the need to repost this blog written by Josh Dies. He poses some very interesting thoughts, and I strongly encourage everyone to read it. There’s also a pretty decent thread of discussion in the comments section.

Here’s a snippet of the post:

I was on tour a few weeks back when word got out that Osama Bin Laden had, supposedly, been shot and killed by US troops. Immediately, we were bombarded by a country in dark celebration.  Our (Showbread’s) immediate thought was that
someone whom Jesus had cherished (a human being) had been killed and that his loved ones were in need of prayer. But when you make an effort to lift the heavy cross of enemy-love that Jesus commands his followers to lift, it seems there are still many prepared to throw a few stones…

…This is one of the reasons I have decided to forsake all others and follow Jesus: his ways, 2,000 years later, are still too radical for the world to accept… even the ones who claim to be his followers.

You can read the rest of the blog here.


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 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.


Did Jesus need sacrifices?

I have a question that is mostly for the sake of debate rather than finding an actual answer–I just thought of it today, and I’m curious of others’ opinions regarding this.

My question is…

Do you think Jesus went to the temple and made animal sacrifices as was tradition of his Jewish culture? Even though he was sinless?


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