Month: November 2011

The eye of the whirlwind

Things have slowed down.  Last week, I asked for prayer for the whirlwind.  Now, I’m in the eye.  Not sure if whirlwinds have eyes like hurricanes, but you get the point.  Things pick up next Thursday.  Here’s an update of how the first stage of the whirlwind went (thanks for your prayers).

Last Thursday I got up at 6 am, prepped for 3 hours, taught Genesis for 3 hours in the morning, drove for 3 hours (to Baltimore), prepped for 3 more hours, taught and discussed for 3 more hours, then drove home for 2 hours (traffic was better–arrived at 12:30 am).  I was speaking for the InterVarsity group at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County addressing the question, “Is God angry or loving?”  I love hanging out with students.

The highlight was talking to skeptics, agnostics and atheists about the loving God of the Old Testament (YHWH) and the loving God of the New Testament (Jesus).  It made me miss doing campus ministry.  (I was on staff with InterVarsity for 14 years–Shannon is in the midst of her 27th year on staff.)

On Sunday, I gave a similar version of the Angry/Loving God talk at Woodland Presbyterian church in Philadelphia, the church that we attended from 1992-1997 when Shannon and I were the IV staff workers at Penn.  It’s a great church with students from Penn (3 blocks away) and diverse mix of people from the community of West Philadelphia.  They bought 15 copies of GBB and are planning on discussing the book in one of their small groups.

If you’re the praying sort, I’d appreciate prayers for Thurs through Tues (Nov. 17-22).  I’m speaking a total of 8 times– at Biblical, at a retreat with Shannon and at churches in Santa Cruz and Palo Alto (CA).  It’s good to be in a place of dependence.

Kind of, sort of, or utterly forsaken? (Psalm 119:8)

“I will observe your statutes;
do not utterly forsake me
” (Psa. 119:8 NRSV).

With this verse, we finish the first of 22 stanzas of Psalm 119 where each of the eight verses begins with the same Hebrew letter.  For this first stanza, the introductory letter is the first in the alphabet, Aleph.

This verse begins with the direct object particle (‘et), literally “your statutes I will observe”.  But it could have begun with “I will observe” since the Hebrew word that translates into this phrase also begins with Aleph (see 119:7), so the psalmist is here once again emphasizing God’s laws.

The verse has two parts.  First, the psalmist commits to “obey” (NIV), “keep” (ESV, KJV) or “observe” (NRS) God’s statutes, from the Hebrew verb shamar.  Next, the psalmist requests (commands?) God to not utterly forsake them.  The psalmist doesn’t make clear if there is a correlation between the obedience of the psalmist and the lack of divine forsakenness, but it seems implied.

I wonder though, do we normally think about degrees of forsakenness?  How forsaken were you?   A little forsaken, sort of forsaken, or utterly forsaken?  Isn’t forsakenness an all or nothing enterprise?  I remember my supervisor in Oxford (Susan Gillingham) pointing out on one of my papers that the word “unique” doesn’t require the qualifier “totally”.  Something is either unique or it is not.  There’s no gray.

The same is true of forsakenness.  But apparently the psalmist wanted to make it totally, completely and utterly clear.  Don’t forsake me.  The psalmist was afraid of not being in relationship with God.  And the psalmist knew that following God’s word would bring God close.

Have you ever been “kind of forsaken”?

“This one goes to eleven”

11-11-11.  What does it mean?  Not only do we have a date the repeats the same number 3 times, but each number repeats the same digit twice.  The entire series is a palindrome and each of the 3 numbers is a mini-palindrome.  (For an illustration of a palindrome, see “tacocat”.)

Six ones, paired into 3 sets.  Sounds beastly.

Four years, four months and four days ago it was 07-07-07.  Could this all a conspiracy by Seven-Eleven to get free advertizing?  Suspicious, don’t you think?

Interestingly, the film Immortals is being released on 11-11-11, which features a battle between gods and humans worthy of the book of Daniel or Revelation.

Could today be the end of the world as we know it?  (I feel fine.)

On a scale of 1-10 in terms of freaky Armageddon-esque dates, I’d have to say about today, “This one goes to eleven.”