Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Jeremiah: Gloom And Doom

I decided I'd summarize the book of Jeremiah. I had a nagging feeling that I was missing something. So I read, and re-read, and cross referenced between two Bibles and a few websites, and here’s what I came up with:

Jeremiah’s chillin’ in a tiny town called Anathoth. God shows up and says, ‘Yo, Jeremiah, guess what!? I’m calling you to be a prophet! You’s a lucky boy, you sure is.”

“Um, thanks God, but um, er, uh, I don’t know what to say. (See?)”

“Don’t you worry ‘bout a thing, Jeremiah, I’ll tell you what to say! You won’t even need a brother, like Moses. I’ll put the words right on your lips. You’re gonna uproot and tear down and destroy and overthrow, and once all that is done, to built and plant.”

“No kidding. Can I take a pass?”

“Nope. And to make things extra fun, when you write all this stuff down years later, the editors aren’t gonna put ANYTHING in a logical chronological order! Won’t that be awesome!? So in 2008, certain writers named Amy are gonna tear their hair out having to flip back and forth like a Biblical Choose Your Own Adventure.”

“A Biblical what?”

“Never mind.”

So Jeremiah goes to prophesy. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. (deep breath) Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Turn away from your idols and go back to the Lord or else He’s gonna destroy you.

Jeremiah then goes to stand at the temple gate to bug people who go in to worship at the temple.

“You’re worshipping the wrong thing. You think God’s in the temple and if you get inside the temple, it’s Home Base during the world’s biggest game of hide and seek and nothing bad will ever happen to Judah. The only way you’re gonna feel security is if you put your faith in God, not a temple. God’s bigger than a temple.”

The priests and prophets get pissed and wanna kill him. Well, first they wanna hang him, then they’ll kill him. Then they wanna stomp him, then tattoo him, then hang him, then kill him. (Watch the clip and pretend Pee Wee is Jeremiah, and the scary bikers are the priests and prophets, and “I’m trying to use the PHONE!” is the call from God.) But some of the elders and Ahikam say, nah, let’s let him go , so they do, but say he can’t come inside the temple again.

No problem, Jeremiah obviously doesn’t need a temple to say what he has to say. So he gets his buddy Baruch to take dictation on a scroll: “Gloom and Doom is spelled G-L-O-O-M A-N-D D-O-O-M. Exclamation point, exclamation point, exclamation point.”

Baruch goes to the temple to read it to the officials. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom.

The officials say, hmmmm, okay, we’ll take it from here. So they read the scroll to the King, who proceeds to cut off the scroll as they’re reading it and burn it. Scroll? What scroll? I don’t see a scroll. Jeremiah writes another, longer scroll.

Jeremiah occasionally gets arrested from time to time, and every now and then, he complains to God YOU WANNA GIVE ME SOMETHING ELSE TO SAY ALREADY!? I DON’T THINK GLOOM AND DOOM IS GETTING THROUGH TO THEM!


GEEZE God! Why do wicked people get to win!? That aint no fair, it aint.


Waaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh, this sucks, God! You want me to preach Gloom And Doom, but you won’t let me pray for mercy! Why am I doing this!?

God answers Jeremiah directly, whoops, wait, this is God we’re talking about, no, He completely sidesteps the issue and says Dude, forget fair. What you REALLY need is patience. A lot of it. ‘Cause guess what’s coming? Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom. Gloom and doom.

Meanwhile, there’s an internal revolt in the army of the Bad Guy (King Nebuchadnezzar) giving people hope that the Bad Guy might go away. God sends Jeremiah to say nope, sorry, and to make sure Jeremiah gets the people’s attention, God has Jeremiah put on an ox harness. Look at me! I’m in a yoke! Like you’re in a yoke! The Yoke O’ SIN! But there’s also a false prophet Hananiah. If Jeremiah’s message is Gloom And Doom, Hananiah’s message is Not So Fast, Help Is Coming In, Um, Well, Let’s See, About Two Years! Jeremiah says If you’ve got two people saying they’re telling the truth, listen to the one you don’t wanna hear. Prepare for the worst, and you’ll never be disappointed. Hananiah gets fed up and breaks Jeremiah’s Yoke O’ Sin. See! I’m telling the truth! Jeremiah says, oh boy, you shouldn’t have done that, God’s gonna kill you this year. And so he did, Hananiah dies two months later.

Now that Jeremiah had burst the bubble of the people in Jerusalem, he turned to the Jews living in exile in Babylon. Hey, guess what!? You’re not coming home anytime soon! So build homes and settle down, ‘cause you’re in it for the long run, like seventy years or so!

But hey, anyone tired of the gloom and doom stuff? Need a break!? Lemme give you Chapters 29 – 31! In them is a tasty verse that a lot of modern day folk in 2008 and beyond will cling to: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Ch. 29 verse 11) Isn’t that a nifty life raft of a verse to hang on to!? It’s so cool that most people don’t notice the verse that comes right after it, “Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you, “declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.” (Ch. 29 verse 12 – 14) Meaning you gotta seek me, and learn about me, and write book reports on Jeremiah to get to know me, and maybe then I’ll be found by you, though really, getting to know me is a bit of a life’s work.

The Bad Guys take over, Jerusalem falls, and Jeremiah is captured. The Babylonians recognize him as hey, aren’t you the prophet who said we were gonna conquer Jerusalem?! You were right! Kudos to you, buddy! Nebuzaradan, commander of the imperial guard, tells Jeremiah to go hang out with Gedaliah, who’s been put in charge of the Jews who’ve been left behind in Jerusalem. Gedaliah gets a warning that a guy named Ishmael is coming to kill him. Oh no he’s not. Oh yes he is, and Gedaliah dies. So there. The Jews now look to a guy named Johanan to lead them, and they ask Jeremiah what they should do. Jeremiah says we should stay. Johanan and the people promptly decide we should go. And off they go to Egypt. Jeremiah travels with them, because if there’s anything we’ve learned about the guy so far, it’s that he’s a glutton for punishment, and Jeremiah ends up dying in Egypt. The end.

Now, did I get anything out of it, now that I’ve been back and forth through it multiple times?

Yeah, I got gloom and doom. Great.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Watermelon in labor

Psalms tried my patience. Isaiah tried my patience. And after struggling for two weeks to get through Jeremiah, a book I initially thought would be fun to read, in so much that there should be huge parts I can identify with, I’m ready to drop kick most of the Old Testament into my backyard, where it can rot with the shingles falling off the garage roof.


I seriously think that, yoke around his neck be damned, the people of Jerusalem just tuned Jeremiah out after awhile, because it’s 52 chapters of the same monotony. Do you know that the phrase “Woman in labor” appears NINE times in Jeremiah? That’s more than any other book in the Bible. You know how you can trick your head into repeating a word over and over again until it becomes this strange thing from an alien language? Like watermelon? Watch:

Watermelon. Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon Watermelon.

What is this watermelon you speak of? “Woman in labor”? She lifts heavy bricks?

No, no, I know, it’s “Watermelon in labor”!!!

Jeremiah 4 verse31: I hear a cry as of a watermelon in labor, a groan as of one bearing her first child— the cry of the Daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands and saying, "Alas! I am fainting; my life is given over to murderers."

Jeremiah 6:23-25 23 They are armed with bow and spear; they are cruel and show no mercy. They sound like the roaring sea as they ride on their horses; they come like men in battle formation to attack you, O Daughter of Zion." 24 We have heard reports about them, and our hands hang limp. Anguish has gripped us, pain like that of a watermelon in labor.

Jeremiah 13:20-22 20 Lift up your eyes and see those who are coming from the north. Where is the flock that was entrusted to you, the sheep of which you boasted? 21 What will you say when the LORD sets over you those you cultivated as your special allies? Will not pain grip you like that of a watermelon in labor?


I’m not giving up yet, I’m gonna go look up other supplemental readings to make sense of the book. But it’s kinda whacked that I can’t get it the first time around, cross referencing between two Bibles and all.

But I’m persistent. Or stubborn. I demand this book make sense to me!

Watermelons be dammed.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Attempting To Halt The Source

I work for two bosses at the Miniature Golf Network, and they have their quirks and fun bipolar days where one of them yells at me if I dare say “Mr. Smith is on line 1” when it’s actually “THE ASSISTANT has Mr. Smith on line 1.” Because that just can ruin a person’s LIFE, don’tcha know. It’s on par with finding out a tornado destroyed your double wide, your accountant ran off with your bank account, or your olives are touching your mushrooms on your pizza. RUINED! My life is OVER!

But I recognize #1 – Crazy Bosses are unavoidable in working in the industry and #2 I’ve worked for so many of them that it simply doesn’t faze me anymore (and I get a perverse kick out of giving them my Blank Face. Crazy Bosses want to see you crumple when they’re yelling at you. If you shoot a Blank Face at them, it pisses them off more, hee hee hee.) and #3 – Crazy Bosses are usually crazy because the boss above them is crazy, and it’s Classic Trickle Down Theory. I’m Furious And Angry And I’m Yelling At You. Pass It On. I’m Furious And Angry And I’m Yelling At You. Pass It On. I’m Furious And Angry And I’m Yelling At You. Pass It On.

That is definitely the case here, as my boss’s boss is notorious for being a hateful person who’s unfortunately very good at the job.

And since I do not want anyone to figure out what network I work for, even by saying whether my boss’s boss is a man or a woman, I hereby decree that my boss’s boss, is in fact, a dragon. See?

A dragon who eats kids for lunch at the Goofy Golf in Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. Let’s name it Hornby.

Hornby is a very angry dragon, for reasons no one quite understands why, though there’s snerks here and there that it’s because Hornby has no personal life to speak of (so it has plenty of time to develop monster hits.) So it spews fire and brimstone at my two bosses, who in turn spew fire and brimstone at me.

So I pray for strength, I pray for patience, I pray for the slickest of backs so it all rolls off and doesn’t hang around my head for me to pass along like a psychological STD.

But then it occurred to me that if I truly wanted to be effective with the prayers, that I would actually stop praying for things for myself, and instead pray for Hornby.

So begins the Great Dragon Slayer Experiment, In Where I Attempt To Metaphorically Slay Hornby The Dragon’s Ill Temperament Via Prayer.

The thing that makes me think this thing will work is Hornby’s assistant, Lil’ Buster. I used to feel sorry for Lil’ Buster, because it had Hornby as a boss, and got a daily blast of ire so severe that Lil’ Buster’s hair probably burned off a long time ago.

But then I gradually realized that Lil’ Buster is in fact, a lazy assistant, who would rather get answers to its questions from me, rather than go in and ask Hornby itself (Assistant 101: You Have To Get Your Answers From Your Boss Even If You’re Scared It’ll Yell At You.) Suddenly, I started doing Lil’ Buster’s job for it, and I can’t tolerate people who create more work for me. So I started praying for Lil’ Buster, that Lil’ Buster would grow a brain, grow a spine, grow patience, grow wisdom, grow insight, grow a thicker skin and grow into a better assistant.

Lil’ Buster instead got fired. This week is its last week.

Now, I wasn’t actively praying for something BAD to happen to Lil’ Buster. I was praying for nothing but good things to come Lil’ Buster’s way. I probably could’ve sat back and done nothing, and Lil’ Buster still would’ve been shown the door.

Or maybe God is moving in very mysterious ways.

So now I’m actively praying for Hornby. That its craggy heart would soften, that it would realize what’s important in life, and it’s not the new crop of contestants on Putter Up! I’m praying that Hornby would gain perspective, that Hornby would realize how negatively its actions affect other people. I pray that Hornby is able to pinpoint what exactly makes it happy (assuming it’s not eating the nearest village), and is able to take steps to achieve that Happiness Goal.

I dunno, maybe it’s all a little condescending, or maybe God isn’t fooled at all, and sees the unconscious self servitude behind the prayers and therefore won’t answer them. Though, I really do mean it when I wish for good things to happen to Hornby. Just as long as my definition of Good Things are the same as God’s definition and Hornby’s definition.

But if Hornby goes down in a plane anytime soon, I’ll get a little freaked out.

Monday, May 05, 2008

I'd rather stand in line than raise my hand.

There’s a guy standing in front of me. He looks like a rocker, he’s got a pierced eyebrow and lip, hunched shoulders squashed into a vintage blue shirt. Skinny black jeans that end in flip flop clad feet. He’s got more product in his hair than I do. I think it’s dyed too, that kind of chunky flat black color.

The fact that we’re both standing together in the communion line amuses and pleases me to no end.

When I was growing up, My Mother The Phone Harpy Whom I Love Very Very Much wouldn’t let me take communion until I was confirmed in the church. Her view was that there was no point in partaking of a ritual that I didn’t yet understand. I can see both sides to that, (the flip side being that ingraining yourself in a ritual from a very early age makes it less likely that you’ll stop it later. So everyone should start tithing when they’re like, two years old or something.) Once I was confirmed (sixth grade, I think), I didn’t really think communion was cool even though I was finally allowed to do it. I didn’t really think anything about it. Here’s the tray with pieces of bread going down the pew, here’s the tray with grape juice in tiny plastic cups that your dolls could have a tea party with going down the pew.

Since we were Presbyterians we stayed still, and the bread and juice would come to us. The Crazy Koo Koo Church I used to attend out here put a spin on it, where you would hold the plate for the person on your left, as though you were serving them. Then they’d take the plate, and serve the person next to them, and so forth.

There was some point in my church back home where they shifted from bread to some nasty tasting thing. I asked Miss Eunice what it was, she said some kind of unleavened pie crust. I said it’s gross and it brings whole new meaning to the standard phrase “This is my body, take and eat of me.” Miss Eunice said she preferred to think of the volunteers who selflessly volunteered their time to cut the gross tasting unleavened pie crust into tiny tiny parts for everyone to have during communion. Which is why Miss Eunice is going to heaven, and I am not, ho ho ho.

But in my current church, they have pairs of people stationed at the end of the aisles, and you have to go to them. One person holds the plate of pita bread, and you tear off a piece, and shift over to the other person holding the cup of grape juice, dip it and go.

And I kind of dig it. Sure, there’s the hilarious crush of people that flood the aisles as soon as they give the invitation to come on down, and the awkward dance of people maneuvering do I have to go all the way to the end of the line if I’m in the fourth row? Will someone let me cut in front of them? Is that considered less than holy if I do?

But I find myself digging it not because of the Tear and Dip ritual itself. But I connect with the fact that here we all are, a congregation of (two hundred? Three hundred? Is it a holiday weekend?) And we’re all lining up to receive communication. The fact that we’re lining up, that we’re patiently waiting, maneuvering with the apologetic smiles, it’s as physical of a declaration as you can get that yes, I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. And I’m in a huge line of other people that believe it too. And it runs the gamut from a silver haired grandmother in pearls to Mr. Rocker in front of me. We have sundresses, tattoos winking from the back of necks and shirtsleeves (on both men and women.) khakis, hipster satin vests, and me wearing the same old boring wardrobe as I ever do (jeans, black shirt, black boots.) And we’re all here, believing in Jesus, and waiting our turn.

Mr. Rocker, by the way, was ever so helpful in pointing out where I was when Tulip, Pastor For The Day said in the middle of the sermon, “Is Amy (The Writer) here today? Where is she?” Tulip’s squinting under the lights, searching the crowd for me. Damned if I’m gonna yell out where I am, Tulip’s gonna make me recite Scripture or something. So I raise my hand, and if she can’t see it, oh well. But Mr. Rocker sees it because he’s sitting behind me (yes, he was in front of me during communion, he’s behind me now), so he helpfully yells “OVER HERE!”

Then Tulip announces to the congregation that “Amy (The Writer) told me yesterday that she’s reading through the Bible and she’s up to Jeremiah. We all need to take note from her.”

Oh GAWD. No we don’t. Don’t ever use me as an example, folks. Just because I’m reading the Bible straight through doesn’t mean I’m understanding any of it. I have to make connections to Eeyore, The Smiths, and Friday the 13th Part 2 in order to make it make sense to me. I’m the worst example in the world. Don’t try this at home.

And I was all excited that I had finally gotten out of Isaiah, and into Jeremiah, and then the chronological Bible sent me back to the pancake flipping duo of 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles this morning. Great.

I’m not telling Tulip that.