Wednesday, September 15, 2010

More laugh-out-loud cartoons. Sorry. I'm procrastinating.


Click to enlarge.

Matthew 7:4 How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

Picture from

Monday, September 13, 2010

I don't believe in coincidences

Is it a coincidence that twice in one week I've heard/read about the bleeding woman that Jesus healed? I think not - I wonder what He's trying to tell me.

Here's a snippet from

Women have significant roles in Luke’s Gospel, despite their low social standing during the time of Jesus’ ministry. This was very countercultural, as women were not even allowed to be trained by rabbis in those days.In Luke 8:40-56, not only does Jesus heal a woman and a girl, but he heals the bleeding woman who was religiously unclean and a social outcast.

This serves as one more example of God’s heart for the oppressed, and of the universal scope of the gospel: It is for all men and all women. No one is excluded from the reach of God’s love. Throughout his gospel, the physiucian Luke emphasizes Jesus’ tendency to hang out with the unfavorable within Israelite society. The prostitutes, drunkards, and tax collectors received more attention from Jesus than did the Pharisees and scribes. Luke shows us that Jesus did not come to be honored, respected, or successful, but instead, to show that God does indeed love all of his people, even though the religious establishment does not. As Howard Marshall writes, “Jesus brought salvation to the people who were under-privileged in Judea—to the poor, to women, to children, and to notorious sinners.”

Blood and Bravery
The bleeding woman was considered unclean, and everything she touched would have been unclean. She would not have been accustomed to touching or being touched by people, which may be why she tried to “sneak in” and touch Jesus. She had attempted to seek medical help but nothing worked. Bleeding for 12 years, this woman would not have been able to get pregnant. An inability to bear children in that time would have brought a social stigma on her, and if she were married, this would have had a large impact on her family. Over a decade of bleeding would have left her physically weak, too.

Moreover, it was rare in that day for a woman to speak in public. So, when Jesus calls for the person who touched him to say why he or she touched him, it was an act of bravery for the woman to speak. It then required further bravery from her to explain why she touched him and the awkward condition she was healed of. Her lunge toward Jesus was a last resort, desperation, and also demonstrates the magnitude of the woman’s faith and trust in Jesus.

Others would have avoided this woman—and everything she touched—because she was unclean. Except Jesus. In the Old Testament, people became unclean by contacting what was unclean. When the clean touch the unclean, they become unclean. But when the holy touches the unclean, it can be made clean. When this “unclean” woman touched “holy” Jesus, she was made clean not only physically, but societally and spiritually.

When comparing this story with the story of Jairus’ daughter, we find an important contrast: This woman had no advocate or companion, while Jairus’ daughter was surrounded by people and family. Jesus heals the unclean and clean, the lonely and befriended, the defended and the defenseless, the woman without companion and the child of noble birth.

Can I say - love it?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Longest Way Round

I have recently re-discovered 'Out of My Bone', a collection of Joy Davidman's letters throughout her life, to various people; ex-husbands, fellow poets, publishers, critics, cousins. She died at 45. There is an extract of her essay that explores her journey from atheist to Communist to Christian, which I am going to give you all the pleasure of reading through small installments. She is now of my favourite writers, not because of the content, but because of her style, her language, her unique way of articulating exactly what I struggle to put into words. Hope you enjoy!

When I was fourteen, I went walking in the park on a Sunday afternon, in clean, cold, luminous air. The trees tinkled with sleet; the city noises were muffled by the snow. Winter sunset, with a line of young maples sheathed in ice between me and the sun - as I loked up they burned unimaginably golden - burned and were not consumed. I heard the voice in the burning tree; the meaning of all things was revealed and sacrament at the heart of all beauty lay bare; time and space fell away, and for a moment the world was only a door swinging ajar. Then the light faded, the cold stung my toes, and I went home, reflecting that I had had another aesthetic experience.I had them fairly often. That was what beautiful things did to you, I recognised, probably because of some visceral or glandular reaction that hadn't been fully explored by science just yet. For I was a well-brought up, right-thinking child of materialism. Beauty, I knew, existed; but God, of course, did not.
A young poet like myself could be seized and shaken by spiritual powers a dozen times a day, and still take it for granted that there was no such thing as spirit. What happened to me was easily explained away; it was "only nerves" or "only glands". As soon as I discovered Freud, it became "only sex". And yet if ever a human life was haunted, Christ haunted me.

My own parents were Jews, but their story differs only in degree from that of many Christians. Their religion of the letter rather than the spirit heartened the Jews to endure fire and terror and murder through a thousand years. But it was kept going by persecution, as a dead man in a crowd may be kept on his feet by the pressure of those around him. With the persecution removed in America, the corpse collapsed. Many Jews got rid of the traditional forms of Judaism, but kept a vague and well-meaning belief in a vaguely well-meaning God. However, my father declared proudly that he had retained the ethics of Judaism, the only "real" part of it and got rid of the theology - rather as if he had kept the top floor of our house but torn down the first floor and foundation. When I came along, I noticed that there was nothing supporting the ethics; down it crashed.

I declared my own atheism at the age of eight, after reading H.G. Wells's Out of History. In a few years I had rejected all morality as a pipe dream. If life had no meaning, what was there to live for except pleasure? Luckily for me, my preferred pleasure happened to be reading, or I shouldn't have been able to stay out of hot water so well as I did. The only lasting damage my philosophy caused me was near sightedness.

Men, I said, are only apes. Virtue is only custom. Life is only an electrochemical reaction. Mind is only a set of conditioned reflexes, and anyway most people aren't rational like ME. Love, art and altruism are only sex. The universe is only matter. Matter is only energy. I forget what I said energy was only.

Portrait of the hapy materialist; and yet it is no more than half the picture, for, like most adolescents, I was really two people. The hard, arrogant young atheist was largely what psychologists call a 'persona', a mask, a surface personality for dealing with the world. In the greedy, grabbing, big city, middle-class world I knew, this seemed the sort of persona that was wanted. But underneath the surface my own real personality stirred, stretched its wings, discovered its own tastes. It was a girl with vague eyes, who scribbled verses - scribbled them in a blind fury, not knowing what she wrote or why, and read them afterward with wonder. We call that fury "poetic inspiration" nowadays; we might be wiser to call it "prophecy".

This inner personality was deeply interested in Christ, and didn't know it. As a Jew, I had been led to feel cold chills at the mention of his name. Is this strange? For a thousand years Jews have lived among people who interpreted Christ's will to mean floggings, burnings an closed universities. If nominal Christians so confuse their Master's teaching, surely a poor Jew may be pardoned a little confusion. Nevertheless I had read the Bible (for its literary beauty, of course!) and I quoted Jesus unconsciously in everything I did, from writing to verse to fighting my parents. My first published poem was called 'Resurrection' - a sort of private argument with Jesus, attempting to convince him (and myself) that he had never risen. I wrote it at Easter.

The cross recurs through most of my early poems, and I seem to remember explaining that Jesus was a "valuable literary convention". Those verses were mainly the desperate question; Is life really only a matter of satisfying one's appetites, or is there more?

Againrising - Joy Davidman

The stroke of six
my soul betrayed;
as the clock ticks
I am unmade;

the clock struck nine;
my life ran down
on gears of time
with a sickened sound.

The noonday struck
a note of pride;
spread on the clock
I was crucified

The clock struck one;
whose spear, whose dart
transfixed by bone
and narrow heart

The sound of seven
filled me with bells;
I left great heaven
for little hells;

the midnight let
my blood run out
fierce and red
from my opened mouth

Great chaos came
to murder me
when the clock named
the hour of three

The dawn grew wide;
the clock struck five
and all inside
I was alive.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Lepers and tax collectors

Listened to one of my favourite speakers/preachers today, walking in the rain with my hoodie up and head down to avoid the stinging drops. Must've looked menacing at best, positively murderous at worst. I was reminded again just how much Jesus was hated (and still is) despite curing/healing lepers, raising dead girls, making paralytic men walk. So ironic. Once, after healing one of the untouchables of the day, a leper, and forgiving him of his sins, he was reprimanded by the religious leaders as to why he dared imply that he could forgive sins; they never marvelled at the miracle, but simply criticised and complained that he didn't follow their rules. He broke all their religious rules, but never once broke his own moral code. Touched lepers. Ate with sinners. Forgave adulterers. Pretty much everything he wasn't allowed to do, by the standards of the vipers, those hypocrites who called themselves 'men of God'.
The ultimate rebel.