Posts Tagged ‘religion’

Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?

Posted: April 14, 2017 in Life, religion
Tags: ,
Christ's_Crucifix

The Crucifixion of Jesus

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? which is translated, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? [Matthew 27:46 & Mark 15:34]

At a glance, this passage from the crucifixion scene seems to show that Jesus is accusing God of betraying him to this horrorshow of an execution. But there are a two details about first-century Jerusalem that make this verse much more meaningful to our twenty-first-century ears.

First, two thousand years ago the average Jew in Galilee could recite the scriptures from memory; most children had memorized the entire Torah by the age of six. The written word was rare and usually available only in the local synagogue. Radically honed memorization skills were a crucial ingredient for the integrity of oral literary traditions, and the communities themselves, to survive. If anyone got a detail wrong, everyone else in the village was obligated to correct him.

Second, Jesus is conveying much more than a single statement of anguish; it was a common technique for a rabbi of the era of Jesus (or any other devout Jew) to relate the meaning of an entire Psalm by quoting only the first sentence. A full reading of David’s prophetic Psalm 22 sheds some light about why Jesus quoted it and what it really meant, especially these verses:

1 My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. 3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded.

8 He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. 19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me.

31 They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.

And verses 22-24 are the opposite of an accusation of betrayal:

22 I will declare thy name unto my brethren: in the midst of the congregation will I praise thee. 23 Ye that fear the Lord, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 24 For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.

Casting LotsBy quoting the first verse Jesus is quoting the entire Psalm, and in doing so is making an enormous statement: this prophecy is fulfilled today (in shockingly accurate detail), Jesus surrenders to the Father who keeps his promises, and the whole world will praise God for what He has done this day.

The nuances of Jesus’ dramatic words would have been obvious to first century Jews and Christians. This Holy Week, take a minute to challenge our assumptions and look closer at the context for those things that at first seem difficult or contradictory. There are riches to be found when digging into the holy word of God.

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It’s beginning to feel like the time has come again to bring this page out of mothballs, dust off the accumulated debris, and launch some new content. Summer is fast approaching, so I’ll have some hiking posts to write. There are a lot of new restaurants our there (some of which are only new to me), and I’m still interested in exploring and reviewing them. We are nearly six months away from the Presidential election, so there’s a lot to cover there (some of which may even be original). I may even get to chronicle my bride’s progress as she builds her side business to mammoth proportions so that she can keep me in a manner to which I would enjoy becoming accustomed. Who knows what direction this journal may take?

My intent is to work up to a regularly periodic post schedule, but until I get into that habit things are certain to be sporadic. Don’t worry if some time passes between one post and the next.

Readers will, I hope, be entertained by my hiking, restaurant, and business articles. Religion and politics, however, have become blood sport of late. I hope you find my analysis of these contentious subjects useful and interesting, and that there is much upon which we agree. I would love to hear your comments, as well. And even if you disagree with the things I write here, that’s okay – we can probably still be friends. If you use the comments section to give voice to your displeasure I’ll try not to let my feelings get hurt. And if you promise to not think less of me for these opinion posts, I promise not to think less of you for being wrong. 😉

See you soon!

-Red

I’ve never been much of a worrier. My typical reaction to impending doom is to ignore it and hope it goes away.

This strategy has worked well more often than it ought to have. I think it may be because I’m not actually ignoring it, even if that’s how it seems. Instead of panicking and flapping around like a landed trout, I send the problem down to the subconscious to find a solution; meanwhile, my outward countenance has nothing to do, which gives the appearance of calm in the face of adversity. My conscious mind sees my apparent calm and figures there must not be anything to worry about. Eventually (sometimes days or weeks later) the hardworking brain cells in the basement send up a workable answer and I’m ready to act.

This never fails to surprise those who know me well. The action step usually happens just after everyone has given up on me and decided I’m not ever going to do anything.

I suppose that I’m just reluctant to take an action unless I’m sure it will be effective. Which lever do I pull? Which knob to turn? Where to steer? When to wait? What to watch for? Sometimes there seem to be no options, and sometimes there are too many. But anxious fretting has never been an effective strategy. If I worry, it’s very short lived; if I think something might go wrong, I’ll try to fix it if I can, and then there’s nothing left to worry about.

Watching people worry makes me crazy. It just doesn’t factor into analyzing the problem, working out a logical response, or even that other useless activity, finding someone to blame. The most perplexing examples of worry are those in which a person is worried about something they cannot change. What’s the point of that?

At a religious leaders conference called The Nines, Pastor Steve Robinson of Church of the King in Mandeville, Louisiana, gave a talk called, “Worry is Temporary Atheism.” That’s a powerful idea. I understand this to refer anxiety over things beyond your own influence. The concern that our future is potentially and permanently awful, and that God can’t or won’t get you through it.

Faith in God has an amazing capacity to strengthen resolve. There are thousands of stories of people who get through the most horrible situations and credit it to their belief in an afterlife and in a loving God.  But even if you don’t believe, is there really anything so terrible that you can’t find a way to live with it? Even unbelievers find ways to persevere. It’s astonishing how strong people can be when it’s required.

So is worry a useless emotion? I think so. It is fear of an unknowable future – and the unknowable part is key, there. Think about it: if you knew precisely that a specific awful thing was going to happen, you would stop worrying about that (and start worrying about the unknowable things resulting from it, probably). If you were worried about losing a finger while working on an engine, and a genie came along and proved to you that yes, in fact, you were going to lose your left index finger, what are you going to worry about after that? You stop worrying that you might lose a finger, first of all. But then you start worrying about the details your genie left out: “Will it get infected? Will they be able to re-attach it? Will I ever play the piano again? How will I pick my nose?” Suddenly, “Will I lose a finger” doesn’t even make sense.

Is there anything about the future that is knowable? Sometimes, but that doesn’t seem to solve the worry problem. You can worry about your kids, your health, your relationships, your career and your finances, but to what end? You can influence those things, but at some point the results are out of your hands. Worry will never change the results. You have to trust that you’ve done what you can, and let it go.

Do you ever struggle with worry? Have you developed a strategy to avoid anxiety, especially over those things you cannot control? Can faith and worry exist together? Share your story in the comments section, below.

Imagine a world where the word “fire” was never a word, and no other word had ever been invented to describe the concept of a fire – in fact, inventing that word was somehow abhorrent, even criminal. How would you even begin to rescue people from a burning building? How would you alert them to the danger? Could you even direct rescue workers to extinguish it, if you can’t say what it is they need to look for?

The first task taken to eliminate a threat is to define the threat. This is an impossible task if you are restricted, due to a flawed political-correctness taboo, from using factual and clear language in your definition. Our country is becoming more and more restricted in this way, for either fear or fairness, and the resulting inaction against such an obvious threat is causing many of us to become very alarmed. The Fight of Our Lives, the new book written by Bill Bennett and Seth Leibsohn, tackles both the taboo and the threat that the taboo obscures.

The Fight of Our Lives is no-punches-pulled look at the war against Islamic terrorism. It has a lot of frightening statistics, quotes and information (and proofs against an immense amount of disinformation), all of it publicly available but almost never compiled into one package. By amassing this information and condensing it into this small book, these authors have tried to alert their readers to the patterns, the outline and the sheer size of the threat of terrorism we still face. The most striking indictments are the words of the Muslim leaders themselves.

It reads very much unlike Bill Bennett’s history primers and almanacs, and anyone who has heard Seth Leibsohn speak will recognize his voice throughout. But that could be because this is not a history text, although there is a ton of well-footnoted history. This is analysis, commentary, opinion and debate. They’ve taken the rubber tip of political correctness off the research scalpel to effectively analyze the subject of radical Islamic terrorism. But even as uncomfortable as it might be to speak plainly on this topic, this is not an indictment of a people of faith; it is a clear and unambiguous analysis of the many facets within modern Islam.

What to do with that info? Those who most need to learn this are unwilling to do so. Those who most need to know this are actively trying to prevent such discussions from taking place. They are leveling the charge of bigotry on anyone undertaking a fair examination of the subject, they are automatically asserting that the victims are the aggressors and the aggressors are the victims, they are ignoring the inflammatory words of the Muslim community and they are presuming that the targets of terrorism asked for it and deserve it. The rest of us are weary trying to get them to see reason.

So perhaps this book was written so that we who understand that we are at war will have the words to explain our concerns, our intentions and ultimately our votes. It’s encouraging when someone tells you that when you see a fire you can yell, “Fire!” The good news is that, in this analysis, our country has not yet passed the point of no return.

God is too big and too close to get a really good look at Him. It’s like standing next to the shear face of Stone Mountain. I need to pray for understanding about: a) how big He is, b) how close He is, and c) how there can be any kind of relationship between something that big and me – a tiny being, one of millions that He says he loves personally.

I didn’t want to give a talk at his memorial. It was my mother’s idea. Anyone who saw me try this with my wedding vows knows what we’re up against – but tomorrow I’ll have a hankie ready.There isn’t anything I had left unsaid to Pappy (the original “Red” in my life), so this isn’t for him. And he had often told me what I meant to him, so this isn’t for me. Our friendship and our love for each other were so obvious and so often said out loud, it has never been in doubt. I don’t think that happens between people very often in life, and I thank God for it.

John "Red" Hannon, my Pappy

John "Red" Hannon, my Pappy

So who’s this for? As I wrote this, it was extraordinarily easy to find nice things to say about the man. So I guess this is for anyone who doubts that such a person can exist.

There’s a popular Irish blessing that goes:

“May those who love us, love us. And those that don’t love us, may God turn their hearts. And if He doesn’t turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles – So we’ll know them by their limping.”

I don’t know anyone else in my whole life that was so well loved by everyone he met as Pappy was, so I don’t guess he saw many people limping. His Irish charm, outrageous generosity and simple friendliness were the broad brushes with which he painted his world. His humor, his storytelling, his love of life, his joy and his laugh endeared him to everyone. His love for his family was matchless; it was especially evident in the way he adored his bride of 64 years.

When I was a child, Pappy represented everything to me that was fun and happy in the world. My fondest memories of childhood were of time spent at Grandma and Pappy’s house. Pappy was my favorite guy, my favorite place and my favorite time. He was more fun than anyone! With Pappy around at Christmastime, Santa Claus never had a chance.

There’s another Irish saying that goes, “You’ve got to do your own growing, no matter how tall your grandfather was.” Grandma and Pappy moved away when I was still a little kid, and I was an adult by the time we lived near each other again. Our new relationship, though different, got deeper. I was able to look at them through the eyes of an adult; where I once had childishly unrealistic images and expectations, now they were real people. Grandma was surprised and delighted to have a grown-up version of me around for long, adult conversations; and Pappy enjoyed being able to share a pitcher of beer and a pack of smokes over a game of pool. Grandma didn’t always like that part so much. When Grandma died six years ago, I was the man Pappy leaned on for support, and we shared our grief together.

That week, Pappy gave me a newspaper clipping Grandma kept in her things, a poem by Robert Test called, “To Remember Me…” which she left as sort of a living will. The poem ends:

“…Scatter [my] ashes to the winds to help the flowers grow. If you must bury something, let it be my faults, my weaknesses and all my prejudice against my fellow man. Give my sins to the devil; give my soul to God. If, by chance, you wish to remember me, do it with a kind deed or word to someone who needs you. If you do all I have asked, I will live forever.”

She wrote in the margin, “This is our wish – Mom & Pap”. They weren’t shy about their mortality. They discussed it openly and without fear. They were absolutely certain what was going to happen, because their faith was solid – God sent his Son who paid their ticket into the afterlife. No question. “Besides,” Pappy once told me, “if we’re wrong, what’s the worse that can happen?”

Pappy moved into my home a year ago so we could help him with his day-to-day. For a year he’s been there for us to talk to, to share meals with, to swap books with. Sure, he’s my grandfather, but he’s been my very close buddy for 20 years, as well. When he thought about being 93 years old (which was all the time), he often expressed astonishment – and impatience, disgust and annoyance. “It’s no fun, Mike,” he’d say. He was fond of chapter 14 in the gospel of John, the part about “my Father’s many rooms” being prepared. He’d shake his head and say, “you’d think the place would be ready by now. What’s He waiting for?”

What possible reason could God have had for dragging this out? We were openly grateful to have all this “extra” time together, but what’s God up to here? Together we looked for an answer for that, but it eluded us. I might be wrong, but I think I finally figured it out. You see, I think if God had actually asked Pappy, “Red, here’s the deal. Your rooms here are ready, so we can move you in right away – or, we can hold off for just a little while and make these last few years a gift from us to your family. Whaddaya think?” Pappy was such a generous man, especially in regard to his family, I think it’s a deal he would have done.

So I’ll say it to anyone who doesn’t already know it – there actually are people like that in this world.

Pappy and I both knew that God would eventually give him that happy welcome home. So now, he’s finally feeling good again, healthy, happy and strong. He even got there in time for a Sunday round of golf, a happy hour drink and Grandma’s birthday party.

When we were little and they came over for a visit, I remember how unhappy my sister Laura and I were when it was time for them to leave for home. His departure from us now has left a large, painful hole in our home here, but we joyfully praise God because of Pappy’s faith, and because we share that faith, and because of God’s promise on which our faith hangs.

No question.

Friday March 6, 2009 – 11:46pm (EST)

This quote has been credited to Mark Twain, Dave Ramsey and MacMcMillan, but most sources attribute it (or something very close to it) to Charlie “Tremendous” Jones: “You’re the same today as you will be in five years except for two things: the people you meet and the books you read.”

I have always been a ravenous reader; mostly I have read fiction, and it used to be that you would usually find me re-reading an old favorite. It was often because my reading schedule moved faster than my book-buying schedule. There’s something exasperating about having thousands of books in the house, all of which I have read at least once before, but being in a mood for something new. Lately I’ve kept stocked up, and tried to pick up five or six books at the used bookstore at a time. I’ve also discovered much more nonfiction in my rotation in the last couple of years.

A couple of months ago I found in the library’s sale bin “The End of Marketing As We Know It” by Sergio Zyman, former CocaCola executive and scapegoat for the “New Coke” mess. I still don’t know why it caught my eye, but I’m glad it did because I really enjoyed it.

Someone gave me (and everyone else on their Christmas list) Bill Bennett’s two volumes on US history, “America: The Last Great Hope”. I looked forward to it, because I have noticed that sometime in my early thirties I had developed an interest in history. It was a fun read, but every once in awhile (especially when writing about events in his own lifetime) he would let his personal prejudices slip through. To his credit, the rest of it was an entertaining and unbiased look at world events and America’s place in them.

I am currently re-reading The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis). This book continues to creep me out, because I feel like I have fallen in real life for some of the diabolical tactics that Lewis’ fictitious demons employ. I’m currently leading a Bible study on this book; hopefully this will give me a chance to scripturally work out some of my doubts, questions and heretic thinking on the subject of Satan and evil. Something about teaching a subject helps embed it into your mind quite firmly, especially if you try to be thorough doing the research. The same thing happened when I taught the high-school youth group at our previous church; it helped me put together the lessons that I wanted my own kids to learn.

I wrote this down on an index card in 2004, after observing reluctance by one of my kids to participate in one of their classes: “Learning is one of the few things, maybe the only thing, that immediately becomes easier once the decision is made to pursue it as a goal. Without that desire, it becomes only a difficult chore.”

I’ve run through all of the nonfiction books I had available and will have to find a new one soon. I should probably set aside a few minutes this week to think about what topic I would like to learn about.

Wednesday February 13, 2008 – 10:49am (EST)