Cut the Cord

cut cableI cut the cord on a couple of things this week; I skipped class and I cancelled cable.  Class will commence again for me next week, but never will I be tethered to a cable company again.  Rather than write about the balance between justice and mercy (curriculum I missed), I prefer to evangelize about the revolution I joined to liberate people from cable bills.  Cut the cord!

Television is not something I watch during the day and in the evenings my husband and I will fire up Netflix or Hulu.  On weekends, we’ll binge watch something on one of these services or maybe rent a movie.  CD’s and DVDs are allowed into the house only if they can be expeditiously returned to Redbox or the library; I’m diligent about reducing this kind of clutter.  Although my viewing habits would make cable unnecessary, my husband likes ESPN, CNN, game shows and The Rifleman.  Until recently, the thought of disconnecting from cable would have made his head explode.

How did I do it?  Well, we actually started the transition two years ago when we took a look at our cable bill, made changes, and avoided being sucked into services we didn’t need.  However, the amount we paid kept increasing every few months.  Then we were required to get an adapter for each television in our home because the area went one hundred percent digital.  Of course, we would be charged five dollars per month for each one of our free adapters after a few months.   Something had to be done so I got online.

It must have been divinely guided because I found a great website  almost right away.  I’m not one of those gifted people who hook up electronic components intuitively.  Finding this resource was a gift.  Reading through the information once gave me the courage to plan an assault and take back my TV.

After convincing my husband he would never be without CNN and ESPN, he agreed to phase one of my strategy.  Since we already had a streaming device, I went to Sling TV  and downloaded their service that provides CNN, ESPN, etc for twenty dollars monthly.  This is a significant saving over cable and very much in our control.

Within minutes, we just clicked on the Sling TV app and started watching CNN.  My excitement was euphoric.  Immediately, I called the cable company and reduced our service down to the most basic thing possible which turned out to be ten channels; the channels we used to watch for free on television when we were kids.  I’d like to add that the most basic service was twelve dollars.  “After taxes and fees,” the representative said, “your bill will be twenty-four dollars.”  Are you kidding me?

I was not willing to start phase two of my plan until I had safely viewed the final episode of Downton Abbey on PBS.  No, I did not want to wait and watch it online.  However, this gave me time to mull over the significance of being charged double the amount of the actual service.  This fueled my fury.  The next morning, I dove into phase two and cancelled cable completely.  I hadn’t bought an antenna yet so this was a leap of faith.

When I think antenna, I envision the unsightly, leggy metal thing perched on my parent’s house in my youth.  In order to get enough reception to watch the Bruins games on channel 38, my father, or one of my brothers, would climb onto the roof and move it around while someone in the house would shout up, “Cold, cool, warm, warmer, hot, stop!”  Other televisions had rabbit ears or coat hangers wrapped in tinfoil.  These were unfortunate to look at as well, but what was the alternative?  Having no TV was not an option.

It occurs to me that this anecdote may be aging.  There are viewers out there who have never actually lived without cable.  It has been like an umbilical cord or lifeline for a lot of people; unless one is brave with technology, cutting cable is a scary proposition.

Energized by my bold action, I drove off in pursuit of a Mohu Leaf 50 indoor HDTV antenna.  There was a Mohu antenna in Walmart (Mohu Leaf Ultimate) for a little less money and I wondered what the difference was (later I learned they are the exact same antenna); I wanted to be sure to buy what Mr. Cable Cutter recommended.  With my Mohu in hand and a can do attitude, I raced home.

I pulled out the ladder, set it up in front of the TV, and read through the installation instructions.  They couldn’t have been easier.  The antenna was surprisingly small, the size of a piece of paper.  Then I climbed up into the area behind the television, the hardest part of the installation process by the way, and made all the necessary connections.  After inching my way out from behind the TV in order to avoid any kind of catastrophe, I climbed back down the ladder and grabbed the remote control.  In the north we call it a clicker.

It didn’t work: all I saw was snow, I started sweating, I called the Mohu help line.  The gentleman on the other end of the phone couldn’t have been nicer.  Learning Mohu is a North Carolina company, I must admit that I felt a little proud.  After asking about the Mohu Leaf Ultimate, he informed me that renaming is a requirement of Walmart. Following the obligatory amount of chit chat, I explained my dilemma and asked for help. He responded, “How old is your TV?”

Apparently, if a television is older than 2009, a digital to analog converter is required.  I am now feeling a mixture of relief and panic all at the same time.  The problem is identified, easy and inexpensive to fix, but I only have a couple of hours left to get this thing hooked up before my husband comes home from work and starts channel surfing.

Back out I schlepped in search of a converter box.  Several stores were visited before I found one and I’m thinking the whole time, “People must be joining the revolution in droves.  Good for them!”  Once the antenna was connected to the converter box instead of the TV, twenty channels came in; two times more than I get with cable and I own all the equipment.

I’m feeling quite liberated now and have shared this story with several friends who are delighted to start the process.  Next, I’m going to use the internet deal comparison search tool provided on http://www.cutcabletoday.com/ to investigate whether or not there is a better internet value available.

Perhaps this post is about justice and mercy after all.  The cable company is losing my business after years of overcharging and questionable customer service.  This is a kind of justice and I feel no mercy.

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Bowl Judgments

bowl judgmentsBowl judgments are not synonymous with bong hits.  However, I can see the appeal of medicinal marijuana after reading Revelation 15-16 by day and following the presidential primaries by night.  For the first time in thirty-three years of marriage, on two occasions, my husband had to wake me up from bad dreams.  “What’s going on in my subconscious?”

My last post, What the Hell, discussed the division of humanity into two camps, good and evil.  The bowl judgments are God’s final seven cans of whoopass; seven angels carry seven bowls filled with the wrath of God.  Once the God fearing folk are safely in heaven with Jesus, each angel pours the contents of their bowl onto earth to obliterate beast worshipers.

I’m not going to go through what happens after each bowl is emptied because the consequences are similar to the plagues suffered by Egypt (plague of boils, plague of blood, plague of darkness, plague of frogs) during the time of Moses.  These are documented in Exodus as well as in Revelation 16.  John would have been very familiar with the two thousand year old writings of Moses; it was required reading and his visions repeatedly draw from the Old Testament.

After the seventh angel empties the seventh bowl, God says, “It is done!” Revelation 16:17

The subject matter in class this year is heavy.  For the last several weeks, we have delved into hell, suffering, Satan, and a host of other dark subjects.  There are some uplifting passages, but just as the reading lightens up, boom, John drops another bomb.  This vision (Revelation) was experienced while in exile on the Greek island of Patmos and the elderly apostle had to have been spent. Was John going through a dark night of the soul or was he simply sticking it to the man (Rome)?  I can’t imagine the horrible conditions he was enduring while in exile.  Pot would have been a godsend.

All of this reading about choosing between good and evil has me thinking about the presidential primaries and how people must decide on a side.  There’s the Democratic camp and the Republican camp, Bernie Sanders vs. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump vs. the GOP.  I will admit that the media has sucked me into the quagmire.  I laugh at John Oliver commentary and Saturday Night Live skits, but I also watch as many debates and town hall events as possible on both sides of the isle to draw my own conclusions based on personal observation and discernment.

Something that really struck me was the CNN Democratic Town Hall in Columbia, South Carolina.  During this event, Bernie Sanders (Jewish) was asked about his spiritual belief system and Hilary Clinton (Methodist) was asked about forgiveness.  I found both of these questions refreshing since they are in alignment with themes I talk a lot about in this blog.  Their answers were, in my opinion, awesome and I have included them here.

The interviewer asked Bernie Sanders, “What is your religion? What do you believe in?” His response, `  .

“Every great religion in the world, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, essentially comes down to: ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’  And what I have believed in my whole life,  I believed it when I was a 22-year-old kid getting arrested in Chicago fighting segregation,  I’ve believed it in my whole life,  that we are in this together, not just, not words.

“The truth is at some level when you hurt, when your children hurt, I hurt. I hurt. And when my kids hurt, you hurt. And it’s very easy to turn our backs on kids who are hungry, or veterans who are sleeping out on the street, and we can develop a psyche, a psychology which is ‘I don’t have to worry about them; all I’m gonna worry about is myself; I need to make another 5 billion dollars.’

“But I believe that what human nature is about is that everybody in this room impacts everybody else in all kinds of ways that we can’t even understand. It’s beyond intellect. It’s a spiritual, emotional thing.

“So I believe that when we do the right thing, when we try to treat people with respect and dignity, when we say that that child who is hungry is my child. I think we are more human when we do that than when we say ‘hey, this whole world, I need more and more, I don’t care about anyone else.’

“That’s my religion. That’s what I believe in and I think most people around the world, whatever their religion, their color, share that belief.  That we are in it together as human beings.

“And it becomes more and more practical. If we destroy the planet because we don’t deal with climate change, trust me, we are all in it together.  And that is my spirituality.”

Marjory Wentworth, Poet Laureate of South Carolina, asked Hillary Clinton, “Why do you think that forgiveness is so rarely an action that we take especially in terms of violent conflict and how could you as president harness the power of forgiveness in terms of helping heal all the division in our own country and beyond?”   Her response,

“That is a great question.  I could not be standing here if I had not been forgiven many times and if I had not been able to forgive, myself, those who I thought had in some way disappointed or wronged me.

“So I, as a person of faith, believe profoundly in the power of forgiveness and we need to do more to try to take that value, that experience.

“The best example I know of it in modern times is the truth and reconciliation process in South Africa. You know, I was very fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with Nelson Mandela. I know Bishop Tutu; I know others who were part of that process. It was just an astonishing leap of faith to bring together those who had been oppressed by apartheid, often physically abused, imprisoned, members of families who’s loved ones had been murdered, with their oppressors, their abusers, their murders, in a process that truly was a national effort to try to forgive enough that the country could be held together, that the nation could be born, that the work could begin.   And it was to me a stunning example of what is possible.

“I think there’s a lot we could do in this country if we could figure out how to harness those feelings. And I see so much anger and fear and bitterness.  Some of it’s being played out in our political system right now. The kind of language that’s being used, violent images, threats against people.  It is deeply troubling to me because we have to try to unite our country, not divide it, if we are going to deal with a lot of the challenges that we face.

“So I would very much consider if there were a formal way, and if not, what we could do to talk more about forgiveness and reconciliation to try to begin bringing people together from different backgrounds, obviously different races, different ethnicities, and every other of the wonderful mosaic that makes up our country, so that people could begin, once again, to kind of see themselves in the other’s life.  Maybe the old saying, walking, you know, in someone else’s shoes  because I think that’s essential to sort of nurturing the ground out of which forgiveness and reconciliation and unity could come.  I think it is one of our biggest challenges. I hope we find ways to try to address it. And I will certainly give it as much thought as I can and try as president to think of ways to lead that.”

Political ideology is important, yes, but I want to know what’s in a candidate’s heart.  The answers to questions like these give us a glimpse; a loving and forgiving heart drives very different action than an egocentric and greedy heart.  This is a central theme in scripture.  I want a president with the kind of character I can be proud of. For me, discernment isn’t difficult after witnessing the presidential candidates during debates, town halls, etc.  Some may find this hard to believe, but humility is something I look for.  No one is perfect.

Why am I having bad dreams?  Let’s see.  There are voters out there so deeply entrenched in the traditional political ideologies of their families that they are blind to ideological flaws.  There are people who don’t vote because they think their vote doesn’t matter.  There are elected officials who are more interested in self preservation than the greater good.  There’s the media’s tendency to feed fear and forget what lifts us. The light needs to shine in a lot of dark places.  This presents profound opportunities for transformation and spiritual growth.

I am encouraged by how Americans are embracing the presidential primary and using it to facilitate change.  There can be no growth without change.  We’ll get there.

Perhaps my bad dreams are the result of something I ate.

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What the Hell

wineIdioms have been prevalent in my writing lately and what the hell is among my favorites. “My Mom just cleaned the house but, what the hell, let’s have a party!” Here it’s used in place of why not or who cares about the consequences.  “What the hell happened?” could potentially be uttered when arriving home to a house that smells like a fraternity and “What the hell are you talking about?” when hearing the lame excuse.  In both of these examples, what the hell is used to intensify the word what.  I was going to try to sugar coat this but, what the hell, I’ll be direct.  The lesson this week is about hell.

Who cares about the consequences?  That, in my opinion, is what Revelation 14 is all about.  Sitting on the fence between light and dark is really not an option.  At some point one must choose.  The light side of the fence is for those who consider the potential consequences of action and choose to love; the dark is for those who say, “What the hell!  Who cares about the consequences?”

There are three major sections in this chapter: The Lamb and the 144,000The Three Angels; and Harvesting the Earth and Trampling the Winepress. I have included links to these passages for personal perusal.  What I find most interesting in the reading this week is the rich metaphorical imagery used to describe lifestyle and faithfulness, specifically wine and marriage.

The Lamb and the 144,000

As discussed in previous posts, Jesus is referred to as the Lamb because in the same way Israelites sacrificed firstborn lambs for atonement (the consequence of sin was believed to be death so animals were used as substitutes for people), Christians believe the crucifixion of Jesus was a sin sacrifice to save humanity.  The chapter opens with the Lamb and the 144,000 on Mount Zion.  There are many interpretations of the meaning of Zion because Mount Zion is an actual place, but in my opinion, it is meant to be symbolic of a destination we ascend to.  We climb the mountain or elevate ourselves to a place known as the kingdom of God.  Many believe the kingdom of God is within, others that it is external.  I’ve talked about this internal vs. external concept of God in other posts. The bottom line is that the 144,000 are with Jesus somewhere sacred.

In the vision, something big happens and is signified with sound: rushing water (emotion), loud thunder (attention grabbing), harp music and singing (angelic).  Only those who had ascended (144,000) could learn the song and are described as virgins not defiled by women.

When I read through this the first time I gasped and rolled my eyes.  It must be remembered that the vision was coming through John’s filter or bias. The reference to virginity is not meant to be taken literally.  It is imagery to describe spiritual purity, one of several instances where adultery is used to describe idolatry or being unfaithful to God.  This is validated in following statements about how the 144,000 follow the Lamb, were purchased (redeemed), speak the truth, etc.  It occurred to me that this is a commentary about lifestyle.

The Three Angels

An angel sweeps in to tell humanity that this is the last chance to fear (respect) God before final judgment (consequences).  A second angel announces, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,” which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.  Like Zion, Babylon is an actual place, but John’s use of the word Babylon here is more likely code (common in apocalyptic writing) for Rome and/or a lifestyle Christians believed to be driven by evil. I love the metaphor about the nation being drunk on wine.  Participating in a lifestyle is often described as drinking the wine or in corporate America drinking the kool-aid.  In both examples there is a connotation that one’s inner gyroscope is compromised under the influence.  Adultery is again used to describe a separation from God.  The theme of bride (God’s people) and bridegroom (Jesus or God) is common throughout scripture.

A third angel declares that if you’re not with us, you’re against us.  Those marked by the beast and not sealed by God will drink the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath.  The lecturer said the mark of the beast was like having a target on one’s forehead and that visual made me laugh.  I envisioned people walking around with the Target logo tattooed to their faces as a symbol of materialism, one of many idols worshiped currently in our contemporary society.  The point is that time is up. Wine is again used to represent the consequential lifestyle God has in store for the folks on the dark side of the fence.  It’s not good.

Harvesting the Earth and Trampling the Winepress

Jesus comes with a sharp sickle and reaps the harvest because the earth is ripe.  When I think reaper, I get an image of Jax Teller on Son’s of Anarchy with a reaper tat on his back, not the son of man on a cloud with a crown of gold on his head.  That sort of confused me until I read that there is a second reaper, an angel, who cleans up what’s left.  This reaper does the dirty work.  The angel is told to gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.  The earth’s vine is an attachment to evil and the grapes are those who have chosen to follow Satan over God.  Once gathered, the grapes are processed, or trampled, by the winepress of God’s wrath.  The resulting wine is described as flowing blood. God’s enemy in the battle between good and evil is defeated.

Conclusion

First of all, I enjoy wine.  It’s used in communion with others to celebrate our marriages, graduations, holidays, tax refunds, new jobs, new babies, and other blessings of life.  My family and friends enjoy good food, good wine, and good conversation around the dining room table quite frequently in fact.  Jesus turned water into wine didn’t he?  Drink responsibly.

What the hell?  What is hell?  Where is hell?  I have no idea, but I will say that inappropriate and unloving behavior creates hell on earth.  Since we have the ability to change our thoughts and actions we can impact the quality of our lives and the lives of those in our sphere of influence.  I read recently that each one of us has the power to answer the prayers of others.  All it takes is a willingness to open our eyes and our hearts to make dreams come true.

If you are among those who sit on the fence, choose a side. If you want to be on the winning side, choose the light.  What the hell, the light will always permeate the dark.  It’s a no brainer.

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Love and Suffering

ValentineWhich would I rather write about when given the choice between love and suffering?  We took a break from reading Revelation this week and studied suffering.  Specifically, how Christians must have perseverance since suffering is a part of life.  Argh!  Maybe it’s because Sunday was Valentine’s Day, but it occurred to me that love and suffering often go hand in hand.

A friend of mine once said, “Never love anything that can’t love you back.”  In my experience, this axiom is brilliant.  Let’s face it; those shoes I love simply can’t love me back.  For long term wellbeing, our relationships with things must be very different from our relationships with people.

What happens when people don’t or won’t love us back?  What happens when our love isn’t reciprocated?  Suffering, unrequited love is the source of a lot of suffering.

Then there’s that command to love thy neighbor and loving neighbors can be really, really hard, especially when they’re ornery.   Do you think I could love a neighbor to death? I jest.  Actually, the idiom love you to death is an expression of unconditional and lifelong love.  For the record, my neighbors are all great, but there are communities of people that continue to cause global suffering and yes, they are very difficult to love.

What does it mean to love?  Several years ago I read a book about medieval prayer written by Kathleen McGowan after she researched the early Gnostic Christians extensively. Among her findings were six different Greek words to express the English word love.  I know it’s impossible to define love, but in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, I’ll share what she uncovered.

  • AGAPE is a joyful, unconditional, spiritual love. It’s the kind of love expressed by God toward humanity, the highest, purest love.
  • PHILIA is a brotherly, friendly, mortal love. This is the love we have toward our siblings and true companions.
  • CHARIS is the kind of love or devotion we have toward our parents and when Jesus refers to God as Father, he is evoking charis. In Greek it means grace and kindness and is the root of the word charity.  Charis describes a kind of nurturing love that drives service.
  • EUNOIA means beautiful thinking in Greek and is a kind of passionate love that drives service toward social change, community service. This is a love for the world and for humanity.
  • STORGE is the kind of love we have for children and pets. Greek for affection, it is described as a sweet, innocent, playful and pure love of tenderness, caring and empathy.
  • EROS is a romantic, sexual love. Eros is the sacred union of two bodies

Notice how there is no Greek word listed to describe the love of stuff.  I was thinking that perhaps when I say, “I love that painting!”, I don’t actually love the painting.  In this case, the painting is the result of a person’s talent and it is the person who is loved and admired for their skill.  Is this semantics or am I onto something? Do people use the word love carelessly?

Let’s tackle suffering.  Suffering is the loss of someone or something that causes physical, mental, emotional or spiritual pain. The fear of loss makes us suffer as well.  As a first pass, to minimize suffering, drop fear.  I have learned that worrying about something never changes the outcome.

Earlier in this post I introduced an axiom; never love anything that can’t love you back. As a second pass, to minimize suffering, focus more on relationships and less on things.

Then there is self inflicted suffering that is a result of our own less than stellar actions. As a third pass, take responsibility for your actions and suffering is minimized.

Looking over the list of six ways to love, the connection to suffering is evident.  We suffer when we lose people we love.  When a death is sudden or from a horrible illness or from violence, it is especially difficult to process and can leave deep mental and emotional wounds and scars.  My family has endured a lot of this kind of loss and what I know is this: love, faith, and time gets one through it.  Loss is an opportunity for spiritual growth and spiritual growth minimizes suffering.

The physical suffering accompanied by war and hunger can be hard to understand. The eunoia in people is what motivates positive change: more eunoia and less greed please.  We’re back to love thy neighbor and yes, sometimes it is very, very hard.  I need to work on my eunoia.

Consider the relationship between love and suffering in your life and ponder the following questions. Does love cause you to suffer? Does fear cause you to suffer?  Does suffering deepen loving relationships?  Does suffering destroy your relationships?  Why?

Answers sometimes escape me, but I am certain that love feels a lot better than loss.  Here is another axiom. The less one has, the less one has to manage.  Simplifying is liberating and I just love giving things away.  Now where would that kind of love fall within the list of six?

We read a lot of passeges this week to answer our homework questions about suffering and I found one of them especially beautiful.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Colossians 3: 12-14

SWAK

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The Beast – Part 2

dragonJohn’s vision left off last week with the dragon, or beast, going off to wage war against God’s people in a last ditch effort to destroy as much as possible while time remained.  Revelation 13 continues with the dragon manifesting two beasts: the beast out of the sea and the beast out of the earth.

The beast from the sea resembles a leopard (an animal known to lay low and wait for an opportunity to pounce on vulnerable or unsuspecting prey) with feet like a bear (an animal that walks upright like a man) and a mouth like a lion (capable of mimicking Jesus who is often referred to as the lion). For me, the sea in sea beast is significant because I generally link water with the human attribute of emotion.

Like the dragon, the sea beast has seven heads and ten horns, however, the dragon has a crown on each head and the sea beast has a crown on each horn. This suggests the sea beast is an earthly manifestation of the dragon (Satan). What stands out to me most about the sea beast is that on each of the seven heads is written a blasphemous name.  I interpret this to be symbolic of fear, or patterns of evil thought.   Fear can be arranged into a list of seven emotions commonly referred to as the seven deadly sins.

One of the heads of the beast seemed to have had a fatal wound, but the fatal wound had been healed. Revelation 13: 3

When I read this I thought, “Yikes, if that was the head named pride then the beast is sporting a bruised ego!”

There are lots of interpretations about what and who this beast could possibly represent, the Antichrist being one of them, but the word Antichrist does not appear in Revelation. I lean toward the view that this beast is symbolic of those who lie, cheat, steal, and manipulate in an effort to promote personal agendas in the pursuit of power, fame, wealth, or all of the above.  Think military aggression and political (popularity) or professional gain here.

The beast from the earth looks like a lamb, but sounds like a dragon.  The interpretation here is pretty straight forward; this beast looks like Jesus and sounds like Satan with an objective to move everyone to the dark side. Jesus actually addressed how to discern good from evil teachings with his disciples.

Watch out for false prophets.  They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are wolves.  By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistle? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Matthew 7: 15-20.

I know this is a long passage, but I think the elegant simplicity of it is awesome. Diligently identify the underlying emotion (love or fear) driving the actions of another before deciding how authentic they are and whether or not to follow them.  Where are they coming from?  Who are they really?  What’s in their heart?  Would you describe their heart as a good tree or a bad tree?

The dark side is that which corrupts us. It’s relatively easy to be influenced, seduced or deceived.  The lesson lecturer mentioned something about counterfeit merchandise and I immediately started taking a mental inventory of my closet to make sure I I didn’t own any knockoffs.

Until this class I had never heard of Satan’s triumvirate of evil.  I had to look up the word triumvirate in a dictionary to find it means three people who share power.  Satan, the beast from the sea (Antichrist), and the beast from the earth (Antichrist’s false prophet) apparently make up Satan’s triumvirate of evil which is a knockoff of the holy trinity: God (Father), Jesus, (Son), and Holy Spirit. The message here is to watch out for deception.  I’m thinking false advertizing here.  Commercials aren’t just on TV; they can be up close and personal.

All of this had me thinking about the difference between admiration and idolization.  To idolize an Olympic athlete for the number of gold medals he received or fame she achieved is not the same thing as admiring his or her bravery and dedication.  To idolize an entrepreneur’s accumulated wealth or power is not the same as admiring an ability to impact positive change or develop lifesaving technology. Idolization is harmful and demoralizing where admiration is healthy and inspirational; let’s choose to admire what graces us with good fortune.

If anyone is to go into captivity, into captivity they will go.  If anyone is to be killed with the sword, with the sword they will be killed. Revelation 13:10

Literally, this verse implies the beast will cause jail or death.  I find it compelling because of the play on words and symbolism.  The first sentence counsels us to be cautious of captivation (by a person, place, or thing) because imprisonment (obsession, addiction, etc.) is inevitable.

The word sword, or (s)word, is often symbolic for the word of God.  A sword is double edged.  Numerous idioms come to mind: talking out of both sides of your mouth, two sides to every story, Devil’s advocate, etc. In my opinion, the second sentence in this verse is a message about the importance of discernment, one’s ability to separate truth from fiction, and how it will directly impact wellbeing.

Humans are complicated and fascinating creatures.  We struggle with the obstacles presented by our own thoughts and actions (The Beast – Part 1) and we navigate the outside influences bombarding us every day.  Revelation 12 and 13 present these internal and external challenges as horrific beasts.  All of those fairytales about slaying dragons are coming back to me now.

Do you have any dragons that need slaying?  Activate your shield of knowledge and your sword of truth; choose to use it.

Boot the beast.

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The Beast – Part 1

dragonIn my last post, I asked the question, “Who is the beast?” According to Merriam-Webster, a beast is a contemptible person or something formidably difficult to control or deal with.  Dictionary.com says it’s the crude animal nature common to humans and the lower animals. Both of these sources imply a connection between the word beast and human nature.  The biblical beast, a dragon introduced in Revelation 12, is imagery profoundly linked to the challenges of being human.

In Revelation 12, the break between judgments continues with another of John’s visions. It begins in heaven where we find a woman, a dragon, and a male child.  When I read the description of the woman, I immediately thought it was Mary.  She is described exactly like the queen mother images so prevalent in Catholicism: clothed with the sun, the moon under her feet, a crown of twelve stars on her head and ready to deliver. Other interpretations say the woman represents Israel or God’s people.  For me, Mary represents the mother of all humanity.

Just when the pregnant woman is about to give birth, an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns appears and starts flinging stars to earth and threatening to devour the child as soon as it is born.  The dragon, also referred to in this chapter as the ancient serpent, the devil, the accuser and Satan, is imagery representing evil.  It occurred to me that the red dragon could be symbolic of Rome or King Herod since Herod wanted the infant Jesus dead.

A male child (Jesus) who will rule all the nations with an iron scepter is delivered and immediately snatched up to God and to his throne.  The woman then flees to a place prepared for her by God in the wilderness where she will remain protected for 1260 days.  Numerology would reduce 1260 to nine which is the number of completion.  Do you think this has something to do with the time it will take for humanity to achieve spiritual maturity?  The word wilderness is often used to symbolize the place we all navigate internally to, like the Israelites, reach the Promised Land.

War breaks out in heaven.  Michael and his angels defeat the dragon.  Based on how much art and literature is out there depicting Archangel Michael throwing Lucifer out of heaven, I am surprised that one verse covers the whole event.

The great dragon was hurled down-that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.  He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him. Revelation 12:9

We next find Satan taking up residence on earth and pursuing the postpartum woman.  Finding her out of his reach in the wilderness, he puts together a plan of attack.

Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent.  But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.  Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring. Revelation 12:15-17

This last passage is what I found most interesting in the lesson.  Water is often used as a metaphor for emotion, ocean-emotion.  The imagery of Satan spewing water to overtake the woman and sweep her away made me think of how emotions can overtake us and sweep us away, especially negative ones.  I’ve heard people refer to depression as the beast, but I think the beast could be any illness one battles.

Have you noticed how the medical industry uses military language?  Our cells are invaded by bacteria or attacked by viruses and we fight back using chemical warfare (pharmaceuticals).  I believe that complete healing is only acheived when we overcome the emotional and spiritual components of illness. Sometimes it’s the wounds we don’t see that fester and facilitate physical discomfort or malaise.

There’s a lot going on with mouths in this passage: from his (serpent) mouth spewed water, the earth helped by opening its mouth, spewed out of his (dragon) mouth.  The earth helps and the beast spews.  Maybe this is a message about staying grounded when there’s a lot of bad information coming at you or when you are in a cycle of negative self talk.

Perhaps the great dragon hurled to earth is the human ego.  Isn’t it ego that leads the whole world astray? I could say, “Anger made me scream obscenities in traffic.” or “Greed made me cheat on my taxes.” or “Gluttony made me take the biggest piece of cake.” or “Lust made me make a derogatory comment.” How about “Pride kept me from apologizing.” or “Envy kept me from offering congratulations.” or “Complacency kept me from weeding my garden.”? If I replaced the words anger, greed, gluttony, lust, pride, envy, and complacency with the word Satan in any one of these statements, I’d be talking like a native southerner.  Flip Wilson in drag saying, “The devil made me do it.” keeps popping into my head right now.

Here in the south, Satan gets blamed for a lot.  There are those who believe Satan is an actual entity.  I guess that would make his angels like little parasites that latch on to people when they are vulnerable and suck the life out of them slowly. He (the devil) is filled with fury because he knows that his time is short (Revelation 12:12).  Like spiritual terrorists, Stan (a friend’s nickname for Satan) and his buddies may wreck havoc for a while, but according to Revelation, they have already lost the battle.

As a little girl, I was a worrier.  When troubled by something, my Aunt Dolly would tell me, “Reject that thought!” I think of her often and what a wise, wise woman she was.  Harmful and unloving patterns of thought only gain momentum when you let them.

Two thousand years ago, the elderly Apostle John had visions while in exile on the Greek island of Patmos about concepts he may have had no frame of reference for.  He described these visions through his lens and to the best of his ability.  The biblical imagery in this chapter may be an attempt to describe the relationship between the Holy Spirit or sacred part of ourselves and the human ego needed to navigate survival on earth.  Perhaps it is a message for humanity about the spiritual battles we’ll experience while we’re here and how the outcomes of those battles will impact us.

What’s the moral of the story this week? Resist the beast and his buddies and there is no battle; the war is over.  You’ll be at peace.

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Christian Rock

imagesThis week I’m going to come clean about something; I like Christian rock.  I get my courage from a family friend back in Massachusetts who I have recently learned likes country music and boldly listens to it when in the company of a very tough classic rock crowd.  She is my hero.  Having been a teenager in the seventies, the playlist of my life is awesome.  Amazingly, I have now made room for Christian rock somewhere beside Creedence Clearwater Revival, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

In my youth, I had no awareness that rock music had a Christian subset; I guess that’s because there wasn’t one. I recall singing showtunes from Godspell and Jesus Christ Superstar with my friends, some Jewish, while listening to the radio.  They were mainstream and quite popular.  Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready is one of the greatest songs of all time and who can forget The Doobie Brothers’ version of Jesus is Just Alright? Take Me to the River by Talking Heads was among my favorites in college and I would blast it through the open windows of my dorm room once the weather turned warm. Spirituality has been a major theme in music throughout history, my history anyway.

Fifteen years later, Home for Christmas by Amy Grant became a treasured holiday album for my family.  The fact that Amy Grant was considered a Christian music singer wasn’t even on my radar.

When my children were small, my husband and I would quiz them on song and artist while listening to classic rock on long car rides to secure their proficiency in the genre.  After moving to North Carolina, we would often ride in silence because the music selection on the car radio was limited to country and Christian rock stations.   At the time, we thought it was torture and I’m still finding the CD’s we burned to get us through those early days in the south.

I made a Pandora station for the lovely woman, a pastor’s wife, who cleaned my house and noticed I was singing along as the songs became more familiar.  Next, I was listening to her station when she wasn’t there.  Pandora is a wonderful service.  All I had to do was give a song the thumbs down if I didn’t like it.  Once I sifted through the Christian music industry garbage, the religious commercials and the sappy stuff, I liked what I heard, good music with lyrics meaningful to me.

These listening habits have spilled over to my workouts in the gym.  Yes, you read that right; my husband and I meet our son at five o’clock in the morning three times a week in an attempt to defy the aging process.  I tune into my headphones while they discuss manly things.  It’s very therapeutic, especially on the rowing machine where I am praying for the workout to be over.

The challenge I put forth to you this week is to listen to The River by Jordan Feliz or Brother by Need to Breathe or I’m Not Who I Was and Give Me Your Eyes by Brandon Heath.  If you choose, click on one (or all) of these links and tell me what you think in the comments section at the end of this post. I’d love to hear your opinion on love (formerly sex) and peace (formerly drugs) and rock and roll.

Now you know that I have adopted this aspect of southern culture.  Let me make myself perfectly clear though, this does not mean I identify with the Christian right politically.  I’ve simply removed my resistance to their music. For the record, my transition started before attending Bible class.  I’m sure the women who are praying for my saving will think otherwise; people are entitled to their opinion.

You’ve probably figured out that I’ve had music on my mind, more so than usual.  Maybe it was all the talk about trumpets in the lesson last week.  Remember that trumpet player in Earth Wind and Fire?

This week, similar to the way chapter seven (144,000) is an interruption between the sixth and seventh seal judgments, Revelation 10-11 is a hiatus between the sixth and seventh trumpet judgments (read Choose Joy, Not Anxiety if you need a refresher on the twenty-one cascading judgments in Revelation).  During both of these breaks, John shares visions of God’s people.

In Revelation 10, John sees a huge angel with his right foot on sea, his left foot on land, and a little scroll in his hand.  There are differences of opinion about the identity of this angel so let’s say the angel is an angle of light, a messenger.  With right hand raised to heaven, the angel takes an oath.

There will be no more delay!  But in the days when the seventh angel is about to sound his trumpet, the mystery of God will be accomplished, just as he announced to his servants the prophets. Revelation 7:6-7

John then eats the scroll; it tasted sweet but turned his stomach sour.  Interpretations vary here as well but since God’s word is meant to nourish the soul, I’m going with: this all sounds good, but it’s tough to swallow.  The angel tells John you must prophesy again (Revelation 10:11) knowing that John’s sweet words will be rejected by many.  Rejection can be depressing.

The vision then transitions to the chapter in Revelation where scholars are most greatly divided.  Revelation 11 begins with John being told to measure the temple of God with its worshipers but not the outer courtyard given to the Gentiles.  What does measure mean? Where is the temple?  Where is the courtyard?  Who are the worshipers and Gentiles, what are they doing, and how long will they be doing it?  As you can imagine, interpretations are abundant.

John then says that two witnesses will be appointed to humbly prophesize for a specific time period before the beast kills them.  Whenever I see the word beast I think of the dark side of humanity: fear, jealousy, arrogance, greed, etc.  Who is the beast? Who are the witnesses: individuals, groups, ideologies?

After another predetermined period of time, the witnesses are resurrected, lots of people die, and the survivors become reverent. The beast is overcome.  Again, there is so much going on in Revelation 11 that it is beyond the scope of this blog.  What I will say is that this chapter confirms humanity is a work in progress.

People need a platform to humbly proclaim their personal truth.  Christian rock artists use their music and I use my writing.  This week I learned that witnessing is not about winning a theological argument or convincing others that your belief system is infallible.  It’s about sharing what’s in your heart.

Do you fear embarrassment, criticism, or rejection?  Let it go.  Let your heart sing.

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Choose Joy, Not Anxiety

trumpetIt’s snowing today in North Carolina and for the past couple of days, many of my neighbors anticipated the weather with great anxiety while I joyfully looked forward to hunkering down and writing.  My apparent 180 degree difference of opinion on things is especially prevalent in class.

The Revelation study has evoked visible anxiety in several women; they fear that loved ones who don’t share their belief system, unbelievers, are damned.  Of course, this couldn’t be farther from my truth and although I work hard not to judge, I feel sorry for them; their anxiety robs them of their joy.

The benefit of my religious studies is that I can now find numerous passages of scripture to back that last statement up. If I’ve learned anything, I now know, without a doubt, that Bible passages can be sited to support numerous points of view and although I am very happy with my spiritual path, it is not lost on me that others in the circle think I need saving.

A few weeks back, a classmate said something like, “The devil could be sitting among us.” after I had shared my answer to a homework question.  No offense was taken but I had to laugh.  How fearsome could five foot nothing of me be? Neither my children nor my husband are allowed to answer that question.  It’s rhetorical.

Revelation 8-9 is where we start seeing the seemingly scary stuff gain momentum; Jesus opens the seventh seal which releases a second cascade of judgments.  The notes indicate that there are a total of three sets of seven judgments; the seal judgments, trumpet judgments, and bowl judgments.  My number language tells me that seven and three are symbolic of divinity and creativity respectively revealing that what is to follow is God’s creation, God’s plan, God’s will.

In Breaking the Seals, I didn’t interpret the seal judgments as judgments at all; I thought they were a history of humanity.  Trumpet judgments read more like a box office hit with tons of special effects.  Here we have seven angels who each blow a trumpet warning.  The question was asked, “Why trumpets?” I said trumpets are used to announce, signal, or call to action.  This isn’t wrong, but softer than the class consensus that trumpets are used to announce destruction.  Argh!

In John’s vision, after each of the first four trumpets are sounded, very Exodus like, Egyptian like, Moses like, plague like things happen.  The difference is that the Revelation happenings are more quantitative; basically, one third of the earth, sea, and sky are eliminated.  Then we get to the fifth and sixth trumpet blasts where we see the word abyss for the first time and people shudder.  One third of humanity gets zinged.  One third, there’s that three again signifying God’s will or a catalyst for change.

What comes to mind is cleaning my closet.  The kind of closet cleaning when you purge what is outdated, dysfunctional, or excessive.   That’s what I get from all this doom and gloom trumpet judgment jargon.  My interpretation says God is cleaning house; ridding humanity of outdated belief systems and dysfunctional and unbalanced behavior.

Call me crazy, but when bad things happen, doesn’t it often facilitate change? Doesn’t it make one focus on what’s really important?  Isn’t it often an opportunity to start fresh?  Not everyone is going to get with the program right away; they’ll need more nudging, more judgments (consequences).  My point is that unlike many people in class, I do not take what is written in Revelation literally.  I think John’s vision is meant to depict a potential path toward the spiritual development of humanity.

I’m about halfway through my commitment to study Revelation and document the experience.  When I review previous posts in this series I wonder, “Where did my sense of humor go?  Where is my spiritual growth?  I’m all over the place?”  People don’t read Revelation for a reason.  It’s hard.

My objective has always been to develop a deeper understanding of the southern culture and use that knowledge to nurture meaningful relationships with those around me.  Last year, I learned to translate Bible lingo and found common ground.  This current study has punctuated fundamental belief system differences and I find myself sharing Bible verses in my writing to let the reader decide.  Revelation is one of those books known by many and read by few.  People just don’t want to go there.  I get why.

It’s not easy for me to have a joyful conversation about the content in Revelation.  Anxiety of some sort gets expressed (generally from fundamental Christians) over loved ones who haven’t accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Many believe their sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, etc. will literally experience all this death and destruction described in Revelation.  Am I evangelizing if I try to steer these conversations away from the dark side by asking the following series of questions?

Does the loved one in question believe in a higher power?

Yes: “Great! You believe Jesus is God, right? Be joyful.  There is no need for anxiety.”

No: “Is the person loving?

Yes: “Great! Jesus is God and God is Love, right?” Be joyful. There is no need for anxiety.”

No: “Most likely they have mental health issues.  Jesus takes care of the sick, right?  Be joyful. There is no need for anxiety.”

I do really try to honor everyone’s spiritual path, but when it comes to this, my point of view often gets blurted out in an attempt to demonstrate what I see as blatant contradiction.  It’s troubling for me to observe people suffering under what I believe to be fear based, man-made doctrine.  Isn’t it funny how they are trying to rescue me and I’m trying to rescue them?  We’re all definitely going to be making theological and/or scientific adjustments when we get to the other side of the veil.

My angel trumpets a declaration, “Choose joy!”

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144,000

144000Revelation 7 is where one finds an introduction to the famous number 144,000.  As I mentioned in Apocalypse Now, I have always believed the number 144,000 a metaphor for positive change in humanity facilitated by a critical mass of people; the study of chapter seven strengthened my view.  However, as always, interpretations vary and perhaps the meaning of 144,000 it is one of those things that we are not yet meant to fully understand.

Let me start at the beginning of the chapter and work my way into some of the interpretations of 144,000.

After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth to prevent any wind from blowing on the land or on the sea or on any tree. Then I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God. He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: “Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.” Then I heard the number of those who were sealed: 144,000 from all the tribes of Israel. (Revelation 7:1-4)

I believe the four angels holding back the four winds imagery is symbolic of the Creator’s power over earth, specifically dangerous weather patterns that bring on natural disasters.  What I find significant in Revelation is how often earth is tied to humanity suggesting our behavior energetically impacts the planet.  This is a prevalent theme in metaphysical circles.

The angel with the seal of the living God means the angel is anointed or marked by God for protection.  In my opinion, the symbolism of the word seal is two-fold.  In addition to being an identification mark on the foreheads of the servants of our God, it is also a metaphor for sealing (or locking) in the Holy Spirit which by definition means God is within.

Next John tells us that there are 144,000 Israelites (12,000 from each of the twelve tribes) sealed .  If this is to be taken literally, than it would follow that Christians with gentile ancestry would be in trouble.  Of course no one in class brought this interpretation to the table.

My truth is that everyone is sealed with the Holy Spirit.  Some may not recognize the gift and others may use different vocabulary to describe it, but what’s important is that the Holy Spirit in me recognizes the Holy Spirit in others.  There may be a tiny flicker of light in one person and a raging passion in the next.  Either way, in my opinion, there should be no judgment.  When I shared this view during our small group breakout session, there was obvious discomfort displayed.  I’ll come back to this.

Next we read about the great multitude in white robes.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. (Revelation 7:9)

“These in white robes—who are they, and where did they come from?” Revelation 7:13

“These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. Revelation 7:15

To simplify, let me say that the robes (symbolic identifier of God’s people) being washed (purified or cleansed of sin) in the blood of the lamb (redeemed by the crucifixion) is standard biblical imagery and my interpretation of tribulation is the experience of overcoming the downside of human nature and life’s challenges; the journey to spiritual ascension.

What sparked a lively exchange in our group was the definition of God’s people, or the multitude.  Unfortunately but predictably, our group discussion around this subject was shut down.  That always happens when things get interesting.  Here’s the hot homework question that got us going: Whom do you know that are not yet a part of this multitude?  What do you think God wants you to do about it?

I am annoyed by questions like this and was thrilled when someone else voiced the same sentiment.  For once it wasn’t me pointing out how leading and judgmental it was.  She refused to answer it, bravo!  What follows is my response.

It is not up to me to judge the spirituality of another and determine whether or not, based on that judgment, they are part of this multitude.  One’s relationship with God is personal.  I think God wants me to continually work on my own spirituality and not to evangelize.  It is better to inspire others through example than to dictate a belief system.

There were people who disagreed with me on this completely by embracing a more us and them, or reward and punishment, kind of scenario.  Their belief was supported by the lecturer when she said that if you don’t belong to Jesus, you belong to satan.  This sort of statement just seems ridiculous to me.  My understanding is that most Christian doctrines believe Jesus is God, so doesn’t it follow that believing in Jesus, God, and/or the Holy Spirit is the same thing.  To believe in God is to believe in God, the path to God is personal.  Her statement implies that non-Christians are damned and I want to state for the record, “I don’t align with that.”

Although their viewpoint does not follow my spiritual logic or understanding, I honor their freedom to choose what resonates with them; just like me, everyone in class is searching for truth.  I can’t help but think that at some point in the future, though, we will look back and refer to these times as the dark ages of conflicting monotheism.  Religious communities agree there is one God but can’t seem to agree on the same God.  This is precisely why I choose not to follow any specific man-made doctrine.

The first time I remember seeing the number 144,000 was while perusing a book entitled 11:11 Inside the Doorway by Solara.  The book was about how in 1992, Solara facilitated a global event around the 1987 Harmonic Convergence (otherwise known as 11:11) in which 144,000 people worldwide participated in a planetary activation.  At that time I had no knowledge that there was a biblical connection.

In addition to 144,000 being used to describe a number of people, I’ve seen it used to reference the number of years it will take for humanity to ascend and that we are two thirds the way through.

Some people go deeply into the numerology surrounding 144,000 or twelve times twelve thousand because 12 is reduced to 3 (1+2) which is a number suggesting change.

For fun, I calculated there are 144,000 seconds in a forty hour work week.  Do you think I could use this to establish a church making it a sin to work overtime?  Have you seen the documentary American Jesus?  Crazier things have happened.

This chapter of Revelation, like the six before it, did not leave me with the same message of judgment found in the notes or the lecture.  Does that make me a bad person?  I think not, just different.

Fear not folks.  Since verse nine literally says the multitudes come from every nation, tribe, people and language, if the doom and gloom translations about judgment are the accurate ones, love your neighbor and we’re all still good.

Happy New Year!

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Breaking the Seals

OpeningGiftJesus starts breaking the seals.  Revelation 6 can be divvied up into three sections: a description of four horses and their riders, martyrs under an alter in the throne room, and people hiding. Although I don’t remember bombing my ACTs and SATs in reading comprehension, it is remarkable how my interpretation of Revelation 6 is so radically different from those of my classmates, the lecturer, and the curriculum.

Do you remember that scene in the 1993 movie Sleepless in Seattle where Meg Ryan’s character is driving in the car on Christmas Eve singing, “horses, horses, horses, horses” while listening to a Jingle Bells/Sleigh Ride mash-up on the radio?    She cracks me up. This famous clip came immediately to mind when I read through the opening verses of Revelation 6. As each of the first four seals is opened, John describes a horse (symbolic of travel, freedom, power) and rider, each visibly distinguished by color and what the rider carries.

I watched as the Lamb opened the first of the seven seals.  Then I heard one of the four living creatures say in a voice like thunder, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a white horse! Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest. Revelation 6:1-2

I think this represents humanity at the beginning, fresh from God, when we were simple hunters and gathers inhabiting and developing, or conquering, the earth: a time of purity (color white), a depiction of human intelligence that put us at the top of the food chain (crown and bow) so to speak. This did not align with other interpretations which ranged from the rider being Christ to the rider being the Antichrist.  According to the notes, horses and riders are instruments of judgment.  I didn’t get that read from this verse.  The imagery of the horses and riders felt more like a history of the development of humanity.

When the Lamb opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” Then another horse came out, a fiery red one. Its rider was given power to take peace from the earth and to make people kill each other. To him was given a large sword. Revelation 6:3-4

My initial thought when I read this was that in addition to spirituality, Humanity was given free will (power) and an ego.  Weakness in human nature caused conflict, the root of that conflict being a desire for earthly abundance over spiritual abundance.  Red is the color of the root chakra and is associated with tribal energy.  In addition to the wonderful attributes of this chakra, the bonds of blood likely led to the birth of weapons (sword) to attack and defend.   The notes say, This rider brings internal strife, civil war, anarchy and international conflict…Decreased loyalty and increased violence emerge as mankind moves toward final judgment. Again, my view lies in sharp contrast to the class view of  judgment yet to come.

When the Lamb opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a black horse! Its rider was holding a pair of scales in his hand. Then I heard what sounded like a voice among the four living creatures, saying, “Two pounds of wheat for a day’s wages, and six pounds of barley for a day’s wages, and do not damage the oil and the wine!” Revelation 6:5-6

Here we see the desire for earthly abundance evolve from a physical (war) to a fiscal exchange (wealth).  There is an increasing imbalance (pair of scales) of resources as the human ego drives power and greed.  The notes say, The third horse is black, a menacing image representing the poverty and famine that follow the savage slaughter by the red horse.  Black to me represents the absence of light (Holy Spirit) or the shadow side of Humanity.

When the Lamb opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth. Revelation 6:7-8

Imbalance leads to sickness (pale) and death both for humanity and the planet.  There were lots of colorful definitions for Hades circulating in class, but I define it simply as an internal or external place of torment.  I think the fourth seal is describing the consequences of imbalance.  The notes say, If famine did not sufficiently warn earth’s inhabitants of judgment and wrath, worldwide deaths from plague should capture their attention.   Jeepers creepers!  Where is all this judgment and wrath coming from? What I got is that human nature will get us into trouble; the inability to love thy neighbor results in self inflicted torment.

When the fifth seal was opened, John saw the souls of Christian martyrs under an alter looking to have God avenge them.  I thought, “It’s better to be under an alter than on top of one!”

Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the full number of their fellow servants, their brothers and sisters, were killed just as they had been. Revelation 11

In my opinion, this validates that punishment and sacrifice is not necessary.  There is plenty of time for everyone to “catch up” by overcoming the obstacles keeping them from spiritual growth. Eventually, everyone will be wearing a white robe of purity, achieving ascension status just as they (the Martyrs) had been.  Again, love thy neighbor.

Chapter six wraps up with the opening of the sixth seal.  Here we have a laundry list of natural disasters: earthquakes, eclipses, blood moons, comets, wind and waves. Some believe this to be God’s wrath, maybe, maybe not.

Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?” Revelation 6:15-17

What I find significant in this vision is that instead of finding refuge in faith, people go directly into fear mode and blame God.  I think this is a commentary on our inability to be brave and take responsibility for our actions.  Humans too often have the cowardly impulse to place blame or go into denial.  Like The Dust Bowl I discussed last week, sometimes those natural disasters are a result of inappropriate action by humans.

With Christmas right around the corner, we’ll be breaking some seals of our own.  Let’s commit to making mercy one of those gifts we give and celebrate the Jubilee Year of Mercy?   I recently learned there are seven corporal and seven spiritual works of mercy.  There’s that number seven again! I looked them up.

Corporal Works of Mercy: Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, bury the dead.

Spiritual Works of Mercy: Counsel the doubtful, instruct the ignorant, admonish sinners, comfort the afflicted, forgive offenses, bear wrongs patiently, pray for the living and the dead.

This all sounded very, well, religious to me, so I did what anyone would do in my position; I Googled. Happily, there’s a blog entitled 56 Ways to Be Merciful During the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  Here are my top seven:

  1. Resist sarcasm; it is the antithesis of mercy.
  2. Pare down possessions: share your things with the needy.
  3. If you didn’t mean to be a pain in the neck to someone, admit that you were and ask the person to forgive you.
  4. Hold. Your. Tongue.
  5. Recall a time you were not given a benefit of a doubt, and extend one to someone else.
  6. Make a point to smile, greet or make conversation with someone who is not in your everyday circle.
  7. Make a gratitude journal for your spouse and jot down little things he or she does that you’re grateful for. Bite your tongue and go write in it (or at least read it) the next time you want to criticize in a moment of frustration.

Last year I did keep a gratitude journal (#7) for a short time and presented it to my husband as a gift on Thanksgiving.  In hindsight, there were some pretty funny entries. Laughter is the highest vibration.  Find your joy this holiday season.

Peace on Earth!

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