Ben White's Adventures with softened hearts

Month: December 2020

“Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing” Verse Four Explained

The Best Verse of Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing Requires Some Explaining

“Hark the Herald Angel’s Sing” is my favorite Christmas Carol. It was a family favorite growing up but it became a personal favorite when I was driving home form the hospital after my first son, Oliver was born. Carrie Underwood was singing it on  B101, when it struck me as I made the turn from Spruce Street on to 38th Street in university City, that Jesus also came to be with my son. This life i had chosen to bring into the world was anticipated and provided for by the Newborn Prince of Peace. I had been grateful for this gift of Love for myself but never had I yet been so grateful for the salvation of another. Fatherhood had pulled me out of my self circumscription sufficiently to weep for joy of the Lord’s nearness to another. I think that moment with Carrie Underwood in the car, less than 24 hours after Oliver’s birth, was when I actually became a father.

Baby Oliver

But Carrie Underwood, like many before her, skips the fourth verse. Here it is as I know it.

Come Desire of Nations, come! Fix in us thy humble home.
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed! Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
Adam’s image now efface, Stamp thine image in its place.
Second Adam from above, Reinstate us in thy love.

I just learned on Wikipedia that this song  features lyrical contributions from Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, two of the founding ministers of Methodism, with music adapted from “Vaterland, in deinen Gauen” by Felix Mendelssohn. This version of verse four is a mash up of Wesley’s original version in 1739 and Whitefield’s adaptation in 1758. The wikipedia article also shows how many hymnals don’t even have a verse four. But verse four is the best verse!

The “desire of the nations” is the prophesied coming Messiah (Hag 2:7).  God wants to dwell in us. We are God’s home. The “woman’s conquering seed” comes from Genesis. After Adam and Eve sinned, God promises that the seed of the Woman will crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3:15).  This child, born of a virgin (Isa 7:14), will make all things right that was broken in the Garden. As Jesus rises, we ask him to bruise in us the serpent’s head.  Jesus is coming into the world in the drama of Advent and again in his Second Advent (“advent” means coming) to  undo the sting of sin and death. The source of it will will be crushed!  We sing to Jesus, this conquering seed, “Efface the image of Adam, the first Adam, and stamp a new image in it’s place, your image, Jesus, the “Second Adam from above” (“efface” means to scratch out or erase.)

Here’s the scripture from Corinthians that gives us this language:

“So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.  The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven.  And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” – 1 Corinthians 15:44b-49

I love the future orientation of this fourth verse. Christmas is not just about something that happened in the past. It is happening here and now in us and is going to happen even more , for every child that is born until Jesus returns. (Here’s some love to travisagnew.org for the Bible references compilation.)

But who is Adam?

Pete Enns

Pette Enns is releasing a new edition of his 2012 book, The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins and on a recent episode of his podcast, The Bible for Normal People (Episode 148: Adam, Evangelicalism, & the Metanarrative of Evolution  November 22, 2020), he walked through some of his argument in the book. His most noteworthy claim is there was not a historical Adam and Eve. Evangelical attempts to maintain a belief in a historical Adam  and incorporate what we have learned through scientific discovery will inevitably fail. “You can’t pin the scientific tail on the evangelical donkey” he says in the podcast, “We can’t simply merge the ancient world and the modern scientific one.”

I love the imagery he uses of trying to solder on the new information from science to the traditional theological reading of the Genesis account of human origins. Enns says we need a synthesis of theology and science and this means that the basic theology musty be impacted by the science.

His soldering image called to mind a time when I was trying to solder the fitting of the pipe that went from my basement under the porch and out to the spigot in the front yard. The pipe had frozen and I was replacing it with my minimal plumbing skills and with minimal time. I didn’t wait for the pipe to adequately dry after turning off the water, so their was still water in the pipe. I do not know how plumbers who know how to do this deal with this problem, but my solution was just to not wait and put a ton of solder on the joint. It did not work very well. The water inside the pipe kept bubbling through the liquid metal I was trying to melt onto the joint. I got it water tight after several attempts and I imagine the globby mess is still on that pipe in that basement in West Philly which I no longer own.

It’s ok for our ideas about God, the origins of the cosmos and our own thoughts about it not to work. Properly done, the job will take time and it won’t be pretty. Because we are “in the pipe” so to speak. Life is a constant flow of water and we might not ever be able to shut off the water at all. Pete Enns says, and with this I heartily agree , “To claim that God doesn’t change doesn’t mean that our understanding of God should never change.”

Enns’ example: What does it mean to say with the iron age poet who wrote Psalm 19, “The heavens declare the glory of God”? when the known universe is 546 sixtillion miles wide. In the podcast, Enns demonstrates how incomprehensibly big this is by talking about how long  it would take to count “1, 2, 3 … all the way up to 546 sixtillion,

“This is were my calculator just gives up . It punts it spits out 1.75 followed by  sixteen zeros which is just south of twenty quadrillion years to count the size of the universe and that number quadrillion  means nothing to us. These are incomprehensible numbers….The thought of it all should be unsettling to all who are paying attention…The staggering dimensions and vast age of the universe coupled with the revolutions of relativity and quantum physics are psychologically and spiritually disorienting.” – Pete Enns

… Wow.

Whoever the First Adam is or Was. The Second Adam is on His Way

There isn’t much comfort in that disorientation. I feel grateful that I don’t have a lot of anxiety about what it all means. I am confident that all will be revealed by the Second Adam, when he comes to raise us from the dead and bestow upon us the inheritance of his resurrection life in our renewed bodies.

“If/When” by the Tea Club — Cover Art by Kendra McGowan

 

On Christmas Day, when I sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” I won’t be focused on the incomprehensible past but the incomprehensible future. There is just as much disorienting mystery in that new reality we are promised. The immensity of time and space, for me, are a lovely amplification of the staggering mercy of God, that God would be with us in this tiny, seemingly insignificant, but apparently very significant pale blue dot in an effectively infinite cosmos. Yes, God came to be with us. God came to be with me and with you, and with my son. And God’s plan does not end in the current mystery of my unknowing.

To quote my favorite band and my brothers in Christ, Dan and Pat McGowan of The Tea Club in their anthem, Creature,

“All will be revealed
All will see the wisdom
All will be restored
All will know forgiveness
All your creatures long for the new creation
Where boundaries of death are ever failing.”

“Adam’s image now efface!/Stamp thine image in its place!/Second Adam from above,/Reinstate us in thy love.” (This choir just posted the “full” version)

Merry Christmas, y’all.

On the Holy Mountain: A Christmas Story

My dad posted one of his Christmas Stories this week on his blog, Development, at circleofhope.net/rodwhite. I had at least 3/4 of a mind to do the same before he did so I took it as confirmation. My family began writing Christmas Stories together when I was seven years old. I love it. Here’s some shared love from 2014:

On the Holy Mountain

by Ben, 2014

She stood helplessly at a measured, safe distance, staring in abject despair.  How was this happening?  What had gotten into her little one?  Hadn’t she taught her better than this?  Hadn’t she consistently, unswervingly, unfailingly admonished her against behavior such as this?  It was unthinkable what her little one was doing.  How could she do this?  How!?

She was angry, frustrated, infuriated… scared.  So utterly terrified she couldn’t move.  How could she?  Everything within her, every muscle and tendon was as taut as an un-sprung hunter’s trap—ready to snap and keep her there forever, or fling her away in a twang.  Her nerves could capture her in stone terror, and she could bleed out eternity immobile as if her foreleg were crunched by an actual trap—or, and hopefully this was the case, she could bounce herself away in one bleating bound over any of the hills at the foot of this mountain.  Just as soon as It took one more step in this direction, or maybe one more.  Her body pulsed in readiness.  She was twitching  from the tension of this interminable moment.

The anchor of her heart, her baby, her final joy, her love, began to walk closer toward a danger greater than she had yet known. It was a fearsome brute the  likes of which she had never seen that had her strung so tightly—so desperately wanting to run and so paralyzed with motherly love.  How could she be doing this to me?  How?  Her initial cries of warning were now silenced in the overwhelming flood of fear.  She had never been this still and at the same time so close to something so deadly.

She had spent the springs and summers of her youth in the high meadows almost carelessly, filling her belly with sweet grasses and clover.  Winters were in the low country and sometimes there wasn’t much food but she never remembered the snow after a week or two of spring.  She did remember the wolves that first fall in the bottoms.  There among the moldering leaves of some river bend on the other side of the mountain they came nasty and snarling through the softened leaves—clever creatures that took down several of her friends that day.  She didn’t remember the friends, only the blood on the muzzles and teeth of the wolves’.  She vowed then never to bleed in a predator’s mouth.  She wouldn’t be prey.

And this thing before her now was twice the size, no three times the size, or four, of those wolves that had stalked her.  And they had stalked her.  They had stalked her even when they weren’t stalking her, every moment of her life.  And so, her promise to herself had stayed true.  She had survived for many seasons and through many dangers real and imagined.  She caught their scent on the wind and ran fast enough away.  She listened long enough to every twig cracking in the trees, shot her head to attention and stayed stiff necked in vigil every time she suspected—every time.  And it was worth it.  It was all worth it.  How many children had she brought into the world over those many seasons of survival?  Four or five?  One year there were two, she knew that for certain.  This one would be the last.  This one whom she loved and feared for with all of her would be the last one she would bear.

And her disappearing joy now skipped gleefully toward a monstrous peril.  Though she had never seen one like it before she knew it would redden its lips with her lamb’s blood.  Its teeth must be bigger than a wolf’s, because it was much, much bigger than a wolf. She saw its huge claws, black in blond paws with dark pads underneath.  Oh God, she was close enough to see the pads underneath its feet!  Why was she still there?  The hulk had lay down in the grass in front of her baby.  It flicked its long tufted tail and flopped its ridiculously shaggy head over its foreleg.  And then the moment she had been fearing came.  As her lamb stepped confidently within swiping distance of those mighty limbs. It opened wide its mouth to reveal teeth which were indeed larger than any wolf’s.  She stood unflinching, now completely numbed by the impossibility of her circumstance.  But instead of biting, the animal closed its mouth and licked her lamb on the head as she nuzzled into the shagginess below its chin.

Her lamb had done this so many times with her.  She loved how her little one had always loved sitting right under her head.  And she loved the peace of those common moments- sharing each other’s warmth in the cold of the early spring mornings.  Occasionally she would let her own head rest upon her lamb for a minute.  It was nice, but such luxuries of comfort were too lavish for the reality they lived in.  She thought better of too much rest and comfort.  Vigilance had proven a better friend than any other.

She had tried, as with any of the other little ones, to teach this one,  the secrets of her vigilance.

Listen.  Listen hard.  Never stop listening.

It doesn’t matter what it might be because it could be danger.

Anything can be danger.

Some things you have seen before or heard before, although they were not dangerous before, could be dangerous a second time.  Do not trust your previous experience.  Nothing is certain.  If you have not seen something or smelled something before it is most likely danger.  Assume danger. And smell too.  Many dangers come silently but they cannot escape the wind.  Wolves sometimes know the winds, though, so you must look, and listen and smell, always.  “Never not on guard” this was her motto.  This was her survival.

All these lessons crumbled now before her in a broken heap.  Her lamb was lying with this lying beast as if that monster and not she herself were the mother—as if life were not as she had known it.

“That was a yawn” she thought.  “It yawned and then it licked my baby. ”

The lamb nibbled the whiskers coming from the predator’s face.  After some minor snarls it gently, yes gently, nibbled her lamb’s ear.  It bared its giant teeth and, probably more with its black lips than with those daggers for teeth, quietly corrected her baby and went back to its repose.  What had happened to the world?

She no longer felt like she herself would certainly die.  Her body was safe for the moment, but she could not let her instincts go.  She could not believe even for a moment that what was happening was anything but the delay of her lamb’s death.  She had failed as a mother.  Her last viable progeny would wait patiently to be eaten by something bigger and fiercer than any menace this sheep had ever encountered.

Her muscles flexed and released, and into their softness spread the ache of rigid attention’s strain.  It felt like safety.  The burn of lactic acid reminded her of all she had known in her many seasons.  Her body knew what was good more than she could shape a thought of it in her mind.  She could trust that pain.  And yet the scene before her undermined that faith.  Could the lamb know more than her about this resting brute?  It was obviously a killer.  It could swallow her lamb in two bites.  But it hadn’t done that.  The two lay together in peace.

The serenity she saw gave her courage to reinitiate her calls.  She bleated her most desperate cry of urgency.  “Come!  Come quick!  Come away!”

The lamb perked her ears and bleated back in her tiny voice a sound so content it burned her mother’s ears.  It seemed her lamb was falling asleep.  The sides of the giant heaved in steady rhythm as well.  The immediate threat was definitively over.  Despite this, she could not, and this was her greatest shame, force her feet to fall any closer.  Her lamb was just as lost now as if it were devoured.  It might have well been eaten because where the lamb had gone she could not follow.  As much as she wanted to rescue her lamb she could not approach their slumber.

Instead she slowly turned and fixed her eyes on the hills to which she had so desperately desired to leap.  The mortal panic was gone but her heart’s direction hadn’t changed.  She trudged away sadder than she had ever been.  She managed a few sideways glances over her haunches and saw the same serenity.  It confounded her.  It troubled her.  It cut her to the heart.  How can this be?  She lost herself in these mysteries for a time as she plodded up the hill and into a stand of trees.  A twig snapped to her right.  She bolted upright and stood perfectly still.  Another crack!  A human child emerged from behind a tree with a pack of wolves behind him.  She flew left as if she were still a young sheep and disappeared from their sight.

__________________

The lion stirred and looked up to the hill with half opened eyelids.  He saw the boy descending the hill with his pack.  “Hmm, what good could come of this?” he asked.

He liked this fuzzy white thing that had come to take a nap with him.  This mountain was colder than his home and he appreciated the warmth that it produced.  It was so pleasant to sit at peace.  He had a foggy recollection of some other pleasure that may have dominated a moment like this in his past.  Something like hunger used to prick holes in any peace, but now he felt nothing but satisfaction.  It seemed that everything that came to him was a gift — this fuzzy white thing, the perpetual fullness of his belly, the warmth of the sunlight on his face, and now these wolves led by a little child, yes “child”, he was previously aware of the small humans.   He welcomed the one who was coming to him now and his wolf brethren.

Isaiah 11:1-9

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea

A Shirtless Dancing Guy for Your Joy

Min 0:00 Just a shirtless dancing guy

In 2009, on Memorial Day Weekend, there was a music festival in the town of George in the state of Washington. And at this “Sasquatch Festival” a shirtless man started dancing. But his dance solo became an irresistible dance party in a matter of minutes and some blessed person captured it on video for the rest of the world’s much needed inspiration.

I can’t stop watching it because as a Jesus follower I feel a lot like a ridiculous shirtless dancing man when I am doing half of the things I do.  Sometimes that feels good — “Yeah! Take a look at my freak flag flyin’!” Sometimes that feels terrible — “This is ridiculous! What am I doing with my hands? Where is my shirt?”

But I think that the almost 22 million people who have watched this YouTube video are attracted to this dancer because they long for that kind of  transformational moment to happen to them. The courage, faith, hope, influence, passion, fun and togetherness we witness when we watch him being himself becoming a raucous throng brings me joy every time I watch it (and I have watched it at least a dozen times.)

The first time I watched it I actually cried. Maybe it was the longing to be together like that. The contrast between then and our Covid-19-isolated-now is almost too much to bear. Maybe it was just the longing for a post-Covid-19 future, but I think it was more. I long for this kind of joy to spread in the world. I long for this kind of success, honestly. As I persist in my faithfulness to Jesus, I want the fruit of an uncontrollable party.  Let this video be a parable that inspires us to not give up. Also, let it be to me (and maybe you, too) a reminder not try so dang hard. Please watch the video, I loved it so much, I thought it needed a play by play on my blog.

Min 0:20 Green shirt guy joins in.

Maybe the videographer started a little bit in ridicule? — “Hee, hee, look at this crazy guy!” But the power of the moment quickly transcended any shred of potential ridicule. Because this shirtless dancing guy’s energy spreads.

The first disciple shows up at min 0:20 of the video. Green shirt guy runs the risk of stealing shirtless dancing guy’s spotlight. Is green shirt guy ridiculing him too? No, he can’t be, because shirtless dancing guy welcomes him to the party of one. They clasp hands for a moment. Shirtless dancing guy loves having a partner. We don’t know if his intention was to start something, but he does. I tend to think he was just being himself and then something beautiful happened.

Praise God for green shirt guy and for everyone like him. The ones who will join in on the crazy, the early adopters, the ones who were looking for a party. Bless them. Shirtless dancing guy is not an incredible dancer. He doesn’t care. Green shirt guy is even worse, but that does not matter. he somersaults and cartwheels poorly. He shakes his booty and starts making a movement where a movement may have never happened.

I can think of a couple people in my life who gave me the courage to keep dancing. The little ember of my energy needed someone else to burn. There have been moments when I thought I might just burn out. I needed a green shirt guy and I am forever grateful for all the one’s who have joined me.

Min 0:54 Black shirt guy shows up.

The second disciple arrives. At min 0:54 black shirt guy gets in on the action and now it’s really getting fun.  They dance and fall down together. Praise God for all the black shirt guys of the world. The ones who see what is happening and get happening with it. Now it is apparent that there is a welcome in this group. Black shirt guy thinks, “Green shirt guy was welcome so why shouldn’t I be welcome?” That’s all they needed. Green shirt guy opened the door and black shirt guy walks right through it without hesitation.

It reminds me of the first disciples of Jesus in John 1. The first thing Andrew did after joining Jesus in his dance party was to find and include Simon (later named Peter by Jesus). The first thing Philip did after joining the dance troupe was to find Nathanael.  Andrew and Philip are green shirt guys. Simon and Natanael are black shirt guys. I’m so glad they joined the Jesus dance party because it eventually spread to me and now I get to dance too.

Min 1:15 The tipping point.

The avalanche begins at min 1:15. A whole group of people hop into the dancing and then the rest of the video is just a growing joy. What started as just a shirtless guy letting his freak flag fly became something so much more than I imagine he had ever imagined.

I am encouraged by this because as much as I want to make an avalanche of love like this happen among the people around me, I have no idea what little pebble will start the big rocks to rolling. This is much bigger then shirtless dancing guy and the things I do are so much bigger than me. If I controlled the world, my avalanches would regularly be the disasters to which this metaphor owes its origin. Why would I want to burry people in the rubble of what I alone think is best?

And yet that is what I want. I really, really want my proverbial dancing to spread. But I must learn to give my gifts in the humility of shirtless dancing guy. I do not know what is best. And if you have ever been to a music festival you know this: there is always a shirtless dancing guy. Not every freak-flag-flying fest results in an avalanche of joy. “Is that okay?” I ask myself. If I’m honest, my answer is “No,” and I think that “no” is a cap on the outlet of my purest and best energy. Striving for more than enjoying the music of life with God, I know this in my spirit, tamps down my creativity and all that might be  planted in me that is as irresistible as shirtless dancing guy’s power.  Sometimes there is an avalanche. Sometimes there’s just a shirtless guy dancing. Keep dancing.

Min 2:30 Out of control dance party

By min 2:30 people are running across the lawn to get to the dance party. It is out of control. The spark lit by one shirtless dancing guy’s passion has grown into a wildfire from which I hope you can feel at least some of the heat, across the decade since this was filmed and among the millions who have basked in its warmth across the YouTube screen.

At min 2:52 a person behind the camera says in amazement,  “How did he do that? How did he do that?” Perhaps she was the one who began her video with maybe a little bit of ridicule. Whether the video ended like it did or not, she would have been filming greatness, but she didn’t understand it when she hit record. I haven’t brought any more understanding to it with my play by play. My sole aim is appreciation and inspiration. This is not a “how to spark a revolution or a revival” post. I join her in her amazement — “How did he do that? How did he do that?”

And though I don’t know all the answers (I might not know even one), I am filled up to overflowing by this video so much that I had to share it with you. May it be a blessing for your hope. May it be a spark of joy that gets you through today, through the hesitation that keeps you from your own best kind of dancing, through the darkness of terrors in this benighted world, and through to a glimpse of Jesus dancing, as I am sure he does often.

Watch it again! https://youtu.be/GA8z7f7a2Pk

 

Conversations with Lamentations

Biblical lament is hard to handle. Lament is hard to handle.  When we decided to practice lament as a way to hope for Advent, the idea resonated with me but I don’t know if I knew how hard the practicing would be. I’m finding all kinds of reason to avoid the difficulty. They come in internal and external narratives. Inside, I am very aware of the difficulty and I prefer to avoid the pain. Outside, Christmas is a happy time to turn on all the jolly. We definitely need a little Christmas, but we are working toward a deeper Christmas, a narrower way — a way that gives us less chance to fake it — a way that yields more real and robust hope and is more real with the situation we are all in together. I hope it “works.” The Lord is near. May we know it.

Here are some unfiltered, hopefully unfake reactions to the Biblical laments on the daily prayer this week. I hope they evoke your own conversations.

Is that allowed? (Me and Jeremiah)

“Why is my pain unending
and my wound grievous and incurable?
You are to me like a deceptive brook,
like a spring that fails.” — from Jeremiah 15

Me: Jeremiah, are you allowed to talk to God like that?
Jeremiah: It’s poetry. You’re telling me you never felt like that?
Me: …
Jeremiah: Well, I’ve felt like that. I’ve felt like that a lot.
Me: But aren’t you, I don’t know, like, insulting God?
Jeremiah: Better to insult God than to lie to God, I say. You think God doesn’t already know?!

Mental Gymnastics (Me and Jesus)

 

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
so far from my cries of anguish?
My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
by night, but I find no rest.” — from Psalm 22

Me: Jesus, you’re God, God can’t forsake you. That means you would be forsaking yourself.
Jesus: Here we go with the mental gymnastics.
Me: You are in the Father and the Father is in you.
Jesus: And yet I said what I was feeling, so…
Me: But why did you say it if it can’t be true?
Jesus: What are you running from?
Me: Huh? Why do you ask?
Jesus: I died so you could feel forsaken and not have to hide from my Father. Adam, why are you staying in the bushes.
Me: Adam?
Jesus: By the way, did you read to the end of David’s psalm?
David: They never do.
Adam: They never do.
Me: Whoa, where did you guys come from?
Jesus: I always said my Father was a God of the living, didn’t I?

Why so mad? (Me and Habakkuk)

“I heard and my heart pounded,
my lips quivered at the sound;
decay crept into my bones,
and my legs trembled.
Yet I will wait patiently for the day of calamity
to come on the nation invading us.” — from Habakkuk 3

Me: Habakkuk, Are you angry?
Habakkuk: Hell yes!
Me: You should probably tone it down a little. Your anger is scary and it doesn’t sound very Christian.
Habakkuk: Excuse me?
Me: … Um, well, I know you’re in the Bible and all but I don’t think you should be so angry. God loves those people invading you too.
Habakkuk: That’s what you’re going to do to me? Do you hear me talking about decay in my bones and my trembling legs? This is some scary stuff, here. What do you do when you’re feeling like that? Say nothing?
Me: …
Habakkuk: …
Me: Um … yeah. I usually say nothing.

So what? (Me and Amos)

Seek good, not evil,
that you may live.
Then the Lord God Almighty will be with you,
just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the Lord God Almighty will have mercy
on the remnant of Joseph. — from Amos 5

Me; Amos, are you implying that God is not with us as we say God is?
Amos: Sure doesn’t look like it.
Me: But God is our God. We love God.
Amos: God’s son said if you love him you will keep his commandments.
Me: God’s love is unconditional.
Amos: So what?
Me: So God loves us no matter what.
Amos: And?
Me: And that’s it.
Amos: …
Me…
Amos: …
Me: That’s not it?

DOES God make everything better, though? (Me and Jeremiah again)

“I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.
Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.” — from Lamentations 3

Me: Jeremiah, you should probably forget all that negativity.
Jeremiah: What’s that now?
Me: The affliction, wandering, bitterness, gall. Just let it go.
Jeremiah: How could I do that?
Me: You just said how. The Lord’s great love, compassion that never fails, gotta stay positive.
Jeremiah: I don’t understand.
Me: God makes everything better.
Jeremiah: Oh really?

The Best I Can Do (Me and Isaiah)

“Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.

Your hands are full of blood!” — from Isaiah 1

Me: God, why do you have to be like that?
God: …
Me: …
God: …
Me: We worked really hard on those festivals. They were for you.
God: Your life together is not a kindergarten craft project. I made it clear what I wanted from you, and you gave me this?! Don’t tell me that was for me.
Me: …
God: …
Me: But, but, it was for you. We made it.
God: And I made you. Is unmaking you the only thing I can do?
Me: This is the best we can do, take it, please.
God: No.

I Drench My Couch with Tears (Me and David)

“I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping
and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow;
they fail because of all my foes.” — from Psalm 6

Me: David, maybe you shouldn’t have so many enemies.
David: That would be nice.
Me: Don’t you think it has anything to do with you?
David: …
Me: Everything to do with you?
David: …
Me: Isn’t it all your fault?
David: …
Me: It’s all my fault.
David: I drench my couch with tears.