Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tiny Books of the Bible #2 - Haggai

We're not talking about the famous ones (Esther, Jonah, James) We’re talking about the TINY ones.  The ones rarely quoted in sermons.  And when they are, it takes you twice as long to find them, because they're only 1 to 15 pages long.  Squashed between longer books, what's in these itty bitty books, and what's so important about them that they're in the Bible?

Second up in our TBOTB series (reminds me of TCBY, or ICBINY, and now I’m craving some Yogurtland) is Haggai. 

When I was a kid, I used to think this book was written by Hagar, the Egyptian slave that had to sleep with Abram because Sarai couldn’t bear him any children, and Hagar bore Ishmael (Genesis 16). 

But nope, Haggi does not equal Hagar, nor do either of those equal Hagar the Horrible.  Haggi is Haggi alone.


Haggai is between Zephaniah and Zechariah, but it’s probably easier just to go to the beginning of the New Testament and page backwards, because Haggai is the third to the last book of the Old Testament.


Haggai is two chapters, and two pages long (by my Bible, anyway).


Haggai was a prophet.  You could argue that all the Tiny Books Of The Old Testament are written by prophets, and all the Tiny Books Of The New Testament are written by disciples, or more generally, followers of Jesus.


So!  Remember back in 586 B.C. with Obadiah and how Jerusalem fell and Judah was ransacked and God’s people, the Israelites, were sent to live in exile?  Fast forward to  538 B.C., and the Persian king Cyrus is allowing the Jewish exiles back into Judah, and even allows them to rebuild their temple. 

So they come back, and start to rebuild the temple.  But their neighbors the Samaritans (not all of them are Good Samaritans.  In fact, that was the whole point of the Good Samaritan story, because Samaritans in general were not nice people, but I digress) give them a lot of grief for it, so, much like kicked dogs, they stick their metaphorical tail between their legs, we-don’t-want-any-trouble-we-just-got-back-from-exile-you-know, and stop working on the temple, and start going about their lives, and building their own homes for them to live.

But God wants His temple to be rebuilt.  So he speaks through the prophet Haggai and prods the Israelites to get a’cracking.

Haggai’s prophecy to the people of Judah and their response is done in the pretty speedy (especially in Biblical times) timeline of three and a half months.


God, through Haggai, tells the Jews to get back to work to rebuild the temple.  He points out that the Jews have been working a bunch, but don’t have a lot to show for it.  That’s because God’s been messing with their work (no crops, drought, etc.), because it’s not fair that the Jews get to lives in houses while God’s temple is still in ruins.  But God through Haggai promises His people that He is with them, so that inspires the Jews to get back to work.

So the Jews do get a’cracking, and God through Haggai tells His people that once the temple is rebuilt, it will be glorious, and how from this day on, God will bless His people.


Whereas most prophets in the Old Testament are saying “REPENT!  REPENT, DAMN YOU (NOT REALLY, BUT YOU PROBABLY WILL BE DAMNED IF YOU DON’T REPENT!) and lone gloomy Obadiah is saying, “NEVER MIND REPENTING, YOU’RE DOOMED BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU DID.”  Then all prophet Haggai is saying is, “GET OFF YOUR BUTT AND REBUILD!”  Which is probably the nicest of things that a prophet could say, huh.

Since in today’s times, we’re told repeatedly that God isn’t in a building per se, this emphasis of God to his people to rebuilt HIS building seems kinda strange. 

But I think what’s happening here is that God was all about His temple in the Old Testament, until he sent Jesus in the New Testament.  When Jesus was crucified for our sins, the curtain in the temple tore in two, and I think that symbolizes that everyone is allowed into the Holy Place in the temple (as opposed to it being priests previously).  When the temple was officially destroyed in (70 AD), the idea was that God’s people didn’t need a temple anymore, because they had Jesus.

But here in OT times, God’s people DO need a temple.

Additionally, it’s a sign of respect to rebuild God’s temple, and give the people a way to focus their attention and worship toward God, instead of themselves.

In the tradition of Back Up Testimony, Haggai might be in the Bible to back up  Zechariah, a prophet in the same time as Haggai, saying (in Zechariah 7 and 8) the same thing as Haggai, but without all the wackadoo imagery (four horns, four craftsmen, gold lampstands, olive trees, woman  in a basket, flying scrolls, etc.) that Zechariah has.

And it’s nifty to see how God promises to be there for his people, “I am with you,” declares the Lord (Haggai 1:13) and again “From this day on, I will bless you.” (Haggai 2:19)

So it’s nice to be reminded that even when you’ve slacked off on stuff, God doesn’t give up on you.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tiny Books of the Bible #1 - Obadiah

We're not talking about the famous ones (Esther, Jonah, James) We’re talking about the TINY ones.  The ones rarely quoted in sermons.  And when they are, it takes you twice as long to find them, because they're only 1 to 15 pages long.  Squashed between longer books, what's in these itty bitty books, and what's so important about them that they're in the Bible?

Welcome to the newest Bible Study Series: Tiny Books Of The Bible!  We're going SO tiny, obscure book like Nehemiah (OT, 13 chapters, 21 pages) is TOO BIG.  It's practically Moby Dick compared to the ones we're looking at.

Here’s our first case study – Obadiah!


Obadiah is in the Old Testament, between Amos and Jonah.  Both of those are tiny books too, so it’s between Daniel and… the end of the Old Testament.


It’s one chapter.  2 pages.  TINY TINY TINY!  So tiny it is indeed the shortest book in the Old Testament.


Obadiah was a minor prophet.  And we seriously don’t know much personal information about him other than that.


So there’s a bad guy.  Well, a bad nation.  They’re called Edom, or the Edomites.  They’re the descendents of “I’m The Red Hairy Brother” Esau, twin brother of Jacob.  And they helped the Babylonians sack Judah and its city Jerusalem somewhere around 586 B.C. Or rather, they let the Babylonians do most of the heavy lifting in terms of conquering, and then they zoomed in to plunder and scavenge and generally act like rats.


Obadiah, the minor prophet is lamenting the fact that the nation of Edom are ratty people who scavenged Judah and its city Jerusalem after the city fell.  And he’s warning them that everything they did to Jerusalem (ransacked, hidden treasures pillaged, handing over survivors, drinking on the holy hill.) will be done back onto them when “the day of the Lord” approaches.  Which it eventually did; Edom no longer existed as a nation by 1st century A.D.


It’s all about God’s wrath.  There’s no “repent before it’s too late.”  According to Obadiah, there’s no chance for repentance, it’s all done, and they’re all doomed.


Possibly Obadiah is in there to back up bigger prophet Jeremiah, who also talked about what God was gonna do to Edom for sacking Jerusalem (Jeremiah 49: 7-22).  But basically, in the Old Testament, if you do bad things against the Lord’s people, bad things will eventually happen to you.  Obadiah, in just two pages, says so.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Upside down and okay with it

So it's officially been over a year since I started Aerial classes, and I've not said a lot about it, so let's get updated!

I had been a gymnast in middle and high school, not necessarily a good one, though I did score a few 8s here and there.  I wasn't flexible, but I had no fear, and that served me much better than anyone would think.

But life goes on, and not enough people wanted to do gymnastics to continue the team through high school, so I switched to track and let gymnastics fade into the background.  There wasn't any real loss felt, because I wasn't good enough to win scholarships or go to Olympics, and that's the primary dream when you're a high school gymnast.

So the years pass by, and I took a trapeze class two years ago for my birthday, and I go to a Boot Camp class that encourages cartwheels for one of their stations, and the fire gets stoked again.

Then in 2011, when Dad was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer, I decided I was going to challenge myself on the west coast, and take a Tissu class.  Dad knew I was doing it, and I would tell him how it was going, but I didn't tell him specifically why I was doing it, which was if Dad was going to be going through pain and exhaustion during chemo, I was going to put myself through sympathy pain and exhaustion, so we both could be exhausted together.

This was a stupid reason, and I knew it was (which is probably why I didn't tell him).  My being physically exhausted and in pain from Tissu class wouldn't have helped him at all, or hastened his recovery-which-never-happened, or even made him feel better.  But I've stuck with many a boneheaded idea before, (I lost ten pounds by eating nothing but rice and beef broth for three weeks, I once I thought I could do marshmallow art by nuking mini marshmallows in the microwave) so why not this one.

There was a period of adjustment, where I had to go to different classes to find one I was comfortable with, and finally found a place pretty close to the Shabby Shack, and it's an aerial class, meaning we work out on both Tissu and Static Trapeze.  And it's been fascinating to see how much muscle memory has been awakened for me.  Specific muscles in hands, arms, butt and legs that haven't been used in years are raging to the forefront again.  I compared calluses on my hands with 10-year-old niece Mandy-Bug, who IS taking gymnastic classes and for all I know, may follow in my casual-gymnastics footsteps.

I'm not in the beginner class.  And I'm not in the advanced class, though my teachers say I can move up whenever I want to.  My flexibility is still woefully sad and starchy, and I feel like you need to be super flexible to be in the advanced class.  Maybe yes, maybe no.

But it's a challenge.  And there have been several moments where I am exhausted and in pain.  In so MUCH pain, that massages don't actually put a dent in the pain, like I thought they would.  

There have been times where I was scared out of my mind.  Being a high school gymnast with no fear and weighing under 90 pounds was one thing.  Several years and more pounds later is something else entirely.  Anytime I have to do a trick where I fall upside down freaks my shit out.  Doesn't matter if the Tissu is wrapped a kajillion times around my leg, thigh and waist.  Doesn't matter if the trapeze rope is jammed between my thigh and well, my crotch.  Doesn't matter if the coach is below me spotting me, saying, "You're overthinking it, just go for it."  I'm batshit scared, and I'm voluntarily putting myself through this process.

But those were the times I remembered my dad, and even though he never talked about it, he must've been scared about the chemo process, about the future, about time and how much of it did he have left.  And then I would tell myself, "You're scared.  But Dad's got a lot more to be scared about, so suck it up and do it."

So I would.  And over time. I’ve been able to stifle the yelps and screams that used to happen when falling, and I’ve gotten more comfortable with dangling upside down like a worm on a hook.

Technically, there’s not a reason to continue with the class, since Dad is gone, and with him, my initial reasons for doing the class.  But it’s a part of me now, and I’ll keep at it because it’s fun, it doesn’t feel like working out, it’s still a challenge, and I dunno, I guess the goal is to eventually get stronger and more graceful on the apparatus. 

The class size and participants change from week to week, and there are plenty of times where I get intimidated by newbies who are bendy twentysomethings; super flexible with twigs for arms and bouncy butts.

During one particular class, we're stretching, and everyone can do splits but me, and I'm thinking to myself how I'm having a rotten day and didn't wanna deal with Barbie classmates, and what would God say about this situation.

I’ve read a few self-help books in my time and I start to imagine what God would say if He was talking to me right now (some of the self-help books have recommended that as a writing exercise if you’re going through a particularly difficult time).

I start thinking that God would say something like what I heard in church from Pastor Bernard a few years ago, "Stop looking at what everyone else has and look up at God."

So I mentally look up at God and imagine Him saying something like:

"Precious daughter, I created you and your inflexible limbs, and I love you anyway.  I am so happy that you found this class and school and that you can challenge yourself on your own terms regardless of what your classmates can do.  So enjoy this class!  You can do it, because I know you're strong enough."  

Yes, it’s kinda cheesy and Up With People kind of thing.  And it can be a bit of a dangerous business to start thinking FOR God, because you can find yourself justifying all sorts of things that He really wouldn’t be approving of.  But in this one instance, it made me feel better.

Lo and behold, the bendy Barbies were flexible, but not as strong, not as knowledgeable about the tricks (because they were brand new, and I’ve been there for a year), and I held my own.

I dunno if I’m going to try and make What Would God Say (I guess that makes it WWGS) a regular occurrence, but the result this one time was so immediate that it needed to be noted.

And I guess I feel comfortable posting this one, since you really can’t see my face here either.  Here’s the one trick I learned how to do on Tissu – The Double Star.  True pros will laugh at me, since you’re supposed to be able to control how fast you go down the Tissu, and I have no doubt that I will get there in maybe another two years.  

But baby steps, baby steps.  Here, we’re celebrating the fact that I’m not screaming on the way down.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

A New Life For You!

 In my sometimes hilarious bumblearound, I-couldn't-have-planned-this-if-I-tried way, I managed to schedule my flight home for the holidays for the sliver of time during one of the busiest travel days of the year in between rush hours.  So there wasn’t a huge line when I went to drop off my bag at the  Delta drop off place at LAX. 

There were, however, two extremely friendly-looking people.  And they had things to press into my hand.

I don’t remember quite what they said, I think it was something along the lines of “Would you like to read this.”  I grabbed it, kept going (I’ll probably grab anything you give me so long as I don’t have to stop and sign a petition or something), and didn’t realize until after I got past the security line that it was one of those Biblical Tracts!  They found me again!  How did they know?

Here’s this one – A New Life For You.  Printed and distributed by King’s Harbor Church, says so on the back of the tract.

And there's not any coloring pictures for ants in here.  There is the phrase "BORN AGAIN" which is highlighted and in red text and appears 14 times in the tract.  So that's gonna be their emphasis.

They say in the tracts "How do you know that we have been BORN AGAIN?  The Bible lists six characteristics in the book of 1st John.  These are not requirements in order to be BORN AGAIN, but the results of God working in our lives."  

And while I’m never a fan of hopscotching around and cherry picking verses to suit your hypothesis, I kinda like how they and the tract point out the characteristics are not requirements, since nobody's perfect, not even (or perhaps especially) not Christians.  

And the characteristics are pretty standard stuff as well.  “No Habitual Sinning,” “Keeping Oneself Pure,”  “Believing In Christ,” “Loving Other Christians, “Overcoming The World,” “Practicing Righteousness."  Ruh oh.  

Practicing Righteousness is scary, because it's so EASILY MISCONSTRUED (hey, maybe that should be my emphatic text?  EASILY MISCONSTRUED?)  The tract says that "The true Christian lives to please his Heavenly Father and by the help of the Spirit of Christ that dwells within them, they will avoid the things that God hates."  And if you were only an OT reader, you would include shrimp scampi, double blended jackets, and pigs as things God hates.  Unless you read the WHOLE thing and knew that Jesus’ arrival changed all that.

I don’t like quoting the phrase “God hates x, y and z.”  Because it’s so EASILY MISCONSTRUED.

The only other part they underline in the tract is "please, no gifts."  Which is kinda hilarious.  BORN AGAIN "please, no gifts."  Meaning somehow, someone in the past drowned them with stuff, so they had to underline this?  Or are they doing a puritanical pre-emptive strike:  You may love us so much after we have shown you the way that you may want to give us a gift.  But don't!  Now, just by saying that line, did you suddenly get the thought that you should!?  Don't!  Really!  Don't!  (You can come to church and drop money in the offering bucket, but no gifts, please.)

Ahhh, I'm just kidding.  I'm pleasantly surprised by the straight forwardness of this particular tract.  If I were someone who didn’t believe in God or Jesus, and had this pressed into my hand, I’d be more apt to read it longer than I would, say, This Was Your Life, or Jesus Christ, The Real Story.  Though the constant hammering of Born Again might turn me off.  Probably.