Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Temple of Saint Sava in Belgrade Serbia

The magnificent Temple of Saint Sava - Belgrade, Serbia
This awe-inspiring structure lies at the heart of the beautiful city of Belgrade, Serbia, where I am a guest. Building began in the late 19th century, was thwarted by wars and poverty, but is continuing with great deliberation. Nobody quite knows when this building will be completed, and as such it is a symbol of Serbia’s slow but inevitable restoration.

To me, however, it has become the symbol of the work of God’s Spirit in this city. Whenever I rest my gaze upon this temple, I no longer feel like an alien but a true native. I see the building progress. I see the pride. I see a home.

Or as Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians:
 "So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God's household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit."
- Ephesians 2:19-22

Friday, December 16, 2011

Mary Chambers; Church is Stranger than Fiction – Review

Mary Chambers - Church is Stranger than Fiction
This most excellent Christmas gift suggestion is a golden oldie (1990) and that means that most readers nowadays have never heard of it, and it also means that you can get a copy for next to nothing; they’re going for 1 cent a piece!

I picked up my copy at a second hand bookstore many years ago, and I still treasure it as one of the most enlightening commentaries on church life today. And of course it made me roar with laughter.

Mary Chambers’ Church is Stranger than Fiction should be standard reading for anyone involved in church work. Order a copy today and put it under the Christmas tree for someone.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I am a shield to you

"Do not fear, Abram,
I am a shield to you"
- Genesis 15:1
Source of the photo: http://photo.net/photodb/photo?photo_id=9567942

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Happy Faces

"Bright eyes gladden the heart"
-Proverbs 15:30
Source of the photo: http://business.soulresort.nl/happy-faces/

Friday, December 2, 2011

Panic Attacks, Hughie Hound, and the ties that bind

One of the reasons that I stopped working as an engineer on ships is that I burned out a couple of times and never took the time to properly heal. Hence my mind blew a fuse or two, and it may take the rest of my life to replace them. I can’t get too over-exited, and I should avoid large crowds and stressful situations, because when I don’t – and even when I do – I suffer from terrible panic attacks.

A panic or anxiety attack has not much to do with regular fear. As a matter of fact, when there’s actually something to be afraid of, my mind can focus on that, and a genuine anxiety attack won’t occur because of my mind’s pre-occupation. Anxiety attacks happen when my mind can wander freely, and wanders off too far and loses touch with consensual reality. Then suddenly I see the entire universe, and how it works, and how I suck at being a Christian.  I become painfully aware of either my own insufficiency, God’s wrath, or even (and those attacks are the worst) of the complete lack of sense, purpose or function of the entire universal complex.

Edward Munch - The Scream

When the universe becomes a machine, and I an automaton, and even God an illusion or, worse, a macabre predator feeding off the vineyard that we are, I feel as if I’m falling down a deep hole, the skin of my head tightens, my heart begins to race, I start hyperventilating and sweating like a hog. Then there’s nothing that can be done other than ride it out. I try to go on walks but every building, every tree and every star in the sky raises arms against me and seeks my destruction. Even death loses its appeal because during an anxiety attack, death is an ocean in which I will drown for ever.

But I’ve had this condition long enough to know how to deal with it. I don’t sweat the small stuff, and try not to sweat the big stuff. I’m not overly ambitious so I don’t get overly disappointed. I don’t watch movies that will upset me. I exercise and go on walks. I don’t sleep too late and I don’t work too late. I try to limit myself to translating Biblical names and writing chipper blog articles, and stay out of cosmology and complexity theory as much as I can.

Part of the reason that I frequent Mica’s Paradise is to get me out of the city and into the peace and quiet of nature. So far, I’ve had no anxiety attack while I was here. To me Mica’s Paradise is the most appeasing place on earth. During the day I work at the kitchen table, and at night I sit on the porch and listen to the crickets and watch the stars. When I am at Mica’s, the stars are always happy to see me and they are never angry with me. And everything there seems to buzz on a force-field of life and soul. There’s not a bad thing in Mica’s Paradise.

Lately I’ve taken an interest in Mica’s dog. I don’t think he has a name, or if he has one, he’s not aware of it. And he’s tied up. That may seem awful but Mica lives in an Eastern European rural environment where the rules are slightly different than in the West. Here dogs, like all other creatures, have to pull their weight, and Hughie Hound pulls his weight by sitting by the gate and snarling at any stranger who comes near. He’s been sitting there since he was a few weeks old, and that was seven years ago.

Hughie Hound has a leather belt around his neck, and a chain tied to the belt. The chain is about two meters long and the other end slides along a steel wire that runs for about ten meters through a good portion of the yard. So technically Hughie is tied up but he can walk around freely as far as the wire runs, dragging that chain along with him.

Mostly, Hughie lays in the sun or patrols the portion of the yard that he can access. But occasionally, he gets riled up about something, and then he runs around like he has no sense or any to speak of. He knows the wire very well, so while he’s running like crazy he never forgets to turn in time, and when he’s sufficiently agitated, he tears around the center of his territory, spinning like a wheel made from fur and drool. I’ve seen him in all kinds of tantrums but I’ve never seen him forget the limitation posed on him by the chain.

This morning I asked Mica if I could take Hughie for a walk. She’d never heard of such a silly thing, but I explained that in my culture, people take dogs for walks, and that seems to usually agree with both parties. And so she let me, and I went over to Hughie and took his chain off the wire.

I had to coach him ever so carefully to take the first step out of the usual range of the chain. He had probably long forgotten what would happen if he ignored the chain and ran too far and the chain would yank at his neck and hurl him back to where he belonged, but the association with shock and pain and humiliation was obviously still very much there. He winced when he stepped after me, off the ground that he had paced barren over the years and onto the grass that he couldn’t ever reach.

Hughie and I shuffled out the gate toward the neighbor’s vineyard. The chain hung limply between us. We visited a tree that Hughie inspected and quietly dealt with. He froze and stared motionlessly at a salamander that zipped out of the brush, crossed in front of us and disappeared again in the shrubs. And he looked at me. Every step we took, he looked at me to see if everything was still okay and that I was still in control and leading him into this greater world.

After about ten minutes I brought him back, slid the chain on the wire and went back to work. He’s out there now. I can see him through the kitchen window looking at me typing away at my computer.

I reckon that Hughie Hound and I are both chained up, and that we have become complacent with the artificial restrictions that were passed onto us. But here at Micah’s Paradise, every now and then, a force greater than us takes us off the chain and leads us onto greater worlds.

My friend Hughie


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Springs Of Life

"Watch over your heart with all diligence,
For from it flow the springs of life"
-Proverbs 4:23
Original photographer: Spencer Rowell: http://www.spencerrowell.com/

Monday, November 28, 2011

Bel, Bildad, Eldad, Bar-Jesus and Elymas

We recently posted an article on the name Bel, which is the name of the notorious Babylonian deity. Biblical names often are constructed from divine names, and not only from the name of the Living God. The names Bel and the related name Baal show up quite often as elements of Biblical names (think for instance of Belshazzar). Often these divine names are quite obviously part of Biblical names, but sometimes they aren't. We just posted an article on the etymology of the name Bildad for instance, which also (probably) contains the name Bel. And that lead us to have a look at the name Eldad, which is essentially the same name, except that the Bel-part is now El.

In the New Testament occurs the curious name Bar-Jesus, which literally means Son Of Jesus, but with a lot of footnotes. This fellow also went by the name Elymas, which comes with even more footnotes. Check it out!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The well-known story of the guy in the boat – on answer to prayer

The guy in a boat

(For Deidra)

Once upon a time there was a guy in a boat. Well, actually there was first a guy who wasn’t in boat, and he stood up to his knees in water, and the water rose, and he couldn’t get to shore for some reason.

When the water had reached his family jewels, he cried out to the Lord – first properly praising Him for all His mercies and wonders, but then kindly requesting to lift him up from the waters and put him somewhere dry. When he was just about to stamp his prayer with a basso “amen,” he heard someone clear his throat, just behind him. It was a guy in a boat.

“Get in my boat, homie,” said the guy in the boat to the guy who wasn’t in the boat. “The water is rising and you can’t get to shore from here.”
“Ah, brother,” said the guy who wasn’t in the boat. “Don’t you worry about me. I am a servant of the Most High Lord of Hosts, and He won’t let any harm come to me.”

“Fair enough then,” said the guy in the boat and peddled off.

And the water rose. And the guy who wasn’t in the boat became more and more eloquent. He stretched his arms to heaven and quoted Psalms and Gospels and beseeched the Lord to do something miraculous. Behind him someone cleared his throat. The water was now at chest level.

“Me again,” said the guy in the boat. “You best get in.”
“You of little faith!” admonished the guy who wasn’t in the boat. “The Lord Almighty is testing my faith and you are a temptation! My Father who is in heaven, will save me! Now be off and stay off!”

And the guy in the boat peddled off.

And the water rose. And the guy who wasn’t in the boat grew stronger and stronger in his faith and praised the Creator, the Judge, the Merciful in several ancient language now until the water rose to his lips and he had to pout and everything started to sound funny.

“Are you about done yet?” asked the guy in the boat who had come back and was hovering over the face of the guy who wasn’t in the boat.
“Noy!” gurgled the guy who wasn’t in the boat. “Yoo son ov Belial! Gut awoy from moy! I knoy that my Redeemer livz!”

“Suit yourself, then” said the guy in the boat and drifted away while the water rose and the guy who wasn’t in the boat slowly drowned.

When the guy who drowned came to heaven, he demanded an audience with the Boss right away. When he reached the Great White Throne, he omitted praise, even a polite salute, and began to complain: “What’s with this drowning deal?” he growled. I praised you ‘till the very end, and You promised to hear my prayers and that nothing would harm me and that you would save me.”
“That’s right,” said God. “Everything was lined up to save you.”
“Well!” said the guy who drowned, “I saw no angels to lift me up, no path through the waters, You didn’t do anything!”
“Yes I did,” said God. “Three times I sent a guy in a boat over to get you.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Trust in the Lord with all your heart

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your path straight."
- Proverbs 3:5-6

Source: http://nmazca.com/3142857/2007/10/ascending-imhosan-part-31.htm

Friday, November 18, 2011

Paganism, Christianity and Understanding the Tree

Just beneath the narrative layers of the Bible (the stories) lies a wealth of information that gets lost in translations and which subsequently is largely missed by popular Christianity. Let me give you a really groovy example:

In our day and age we seem to be gaining new respect for pre-Christian religions, and probably rightly so. Back in the days when the world was largely governed by people’s understanding of nature, incredible wisdom was normal but obviously incomplete. The emergence of Christianity didn’t simply introduce some new religion, but an adaptation of what man knew until then. Or in the words of the delightful philosopher Jacob Needleman  (From the book What is God?):
“I had no suspicion that my own personal discovery of the intellectual content of Judaism and Christianity was mirroring, in its own small way, an immense struggle that shaped the heart of our whole Western civilization two thousand and more years ago. I had no suspicion that the word “God,” which we all take for granted, was, and an idea, actually the work of many gifted minds searching, pondering, plunging themselves into the depths of meditation and contemplation while submitting to the stringent demands of philosophical dialogue, argument and objective logical reflection.”
Alas, in our day and age the stringent demands of philosophical dialogue call with less attraction than the stringent demands of commerce, and in stead of sound theology (or at least sound religious philosophy) the cultural phenomenon called Christianity mostly offers slick how-to books, paper-thin worship songs and T-shirts that speak of buddy Christ. And that is why (a) I wrote Cross On Me – Fear and Loathing on a Pilgrim’s Progress, and (b) humanity is sliding back down the scale of brilliance, right back into the natural religions that Christianity once superseded.

And a primary theme of nature religions is the tree: all understanding starts with understanding the tree – how it brings forth fruits, how half of it exists free in the air while its other half remains hidden and caught in the earth. Especially in forested regions, understanding the tree was greatly appreciated. The word “druid” for instance, by which the holy men of the Celts were known, means exactly that: tree-knower.

And sure enough, folks - including Christians - would benefit greatly from looking at trees, also because the tree is of prime importance in the Bible. Creation started with a garden with the Tree of Life at the heart of it, and redemption starts with the Son of God crucified on a tree. This central tenet of Christian theology, the crucifixion of Christ on a tree, is also a clear statement of how and in what Christian thought supersedes natural thought.

But what to us is wise – namely an understanding of the tree – to the body of superseding thought is folly. Merely understanding the tree proved insufficient, and thus the death and resurrection of Christ entered the philosophical stage. But in order to understand the greatness and brilliance of this idea, one should still understand the tree!

For the Biblical Name Vault, I was looking at the name Allon, which is identical to the Hebrew word allon meaning oak or terebonth. But this word seems to be part of two groups of words; two times two roots that yield their derivations (like trees that yield their fruits) according to their kind, and which somehow brought forth this name Allon through two different  and unrelated evolutions! It made me think of the two differing genealogies of Joseph, the legal father of Jesus. But what was more striking was the groups of meanings that were brought about by these separate roots.

Here they are:

Root 1
The root aleph-lamed-lamed yields the rare feminine noun alla, which means oak, and the much more common masculine noun allon, also meaning oak. In the Bible the oak is often utilized to symbolize strength, but also to mark some location (like the Oak of Weeping, where Deborah was buried). The prophet Hosea mentions the oak as instrument in pagan worship (4:13) and Isaiah tells the satirical story of a man who chops down a tree (like a cedar or oak) and uses half to make a cooking fire and the other half to carve an idol from (44:9-17).

Root 2
The identical root aleph-lamed-lamed yields the word elil, which denotes something worthless, particularly as an object of worship.

Root 3
The root aleph-waw-lamed yields an abundance of derivations, all having to do with protruding or sticking out. The noun ul may mean belly or leading man, depending on the context. The noun ulam means porch. The noun ayil means either ram, door post, leader or terebinth (that’s a kind of oak), depending on the context. The word ela means terebinth as well. And finally the word elon, which is spelled identical to the word alon and the Biblical name Allon as mentioned under root 1 but pronounced slightly different, means again terebinth.

Root 4
The identical root aleph-waw-lamed yields three derivations, all having to do with foolishness: The adjective ewil means foolish. The adjective ewili means foolish too. And the feminine noun iwwelet means folly or foolishness.

Go figure. And while you’re figuring, remember that someone who delights in the Law of the Lord is like a tree planted by water, and that in the new creation, the Tree of Life will stand by the river of life, where it will yield twelve kinds of fruits. And its leaves will be for the healing of the nations.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Friday, November 11, 2011

Black Holes & Michelangelo’s Sistine Brain – Is God in our head?

God between your ears.

In last year’s May issue of Neurosurgery – the official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons – medical illustrator Ian Suk, BSc, BMC, and neurosurgeon Rafael Tamargo caused a bit of a stir by posting an article in which they subscribed to the theory that, indeed, Michelangelo had placed his famous Creator God on a human cranium. What Michelangelo had meant with that can no longer be established, but one of the proposals was that God exists solely in the human mind. Ergo: the famous detail of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was not about God creating man, but man creating God! The message that critics derived was that Michelangelo preached that God, like all other figments of human imagination, existed only between human ears. Is that bad? Well, no, it isn’t.

The Sistine Brain by Ian Suk and  Rafael Tamargo

Everything between your ears.

In order for the human brain to create a picture of what is around it, it needs stimuli, and it obtains stimuli through the senses. When something makes a sound, the sound travels through the air, reaches our ears, is translated into an electrical signal and travels to the brain. The brain then uses the same sub-routine that allows us to fantasize, dream or ponder abstractions, and connects the stimuli-dots into a recognizable picture of something that might be out there.

Without that signal reaching the brain, there is no awareness in the brain of the source of that signal. In other words: items are only incorporated into our reality-model when its signal passes into our body and into our brain. In other words: in order for something to be perceived as real, it must exist between our ears. We can not be aware of something that doesn’t exist solely in our minds.

And that means that for a solitary person, it is impossible to detect a difference between observed reality and fantasy. When there are two or more people together, fantasies will be restricted to one person, and reality will be confirmed by the others, and that’s how we can tell the difference. And that works really well, until someone realizes that he or she could be making the other guys up, and there is no way of telling whether anything is real.

General Existential Relativity

Einstein is famous for discovering that there is no difference between sitting motionless in a gravitational field or speeding up outside of one. All math works the same in either situation, and there’s no way of telling whether we’re accelerating or whether we’re stationary close to a massive object.

In much the same way there is no way of telling whether the world truly exists or whether you, the reader, are making everything up. You could be some solitary worm-like creature floating in some ocean out there, erroneously convinced that you are a human, and that there are more humans who all tell you that you are one too. Or you could be a spark flying off some handle in which in a blip of consciousness an entire fantasy world arose. In fact, there’s no way of knowing for sure that you are not the only thing that exists, and that besides you there’s only the howling infinite of nothingness. You could be all alone.

Fortunately, we’ve learned to believe. And we like to believe that we are humans, and that the other humans are autonomous humans just like us, and that we’re in a universe. And some of us have been given the additional belief that God created everything (or should we say that this belief is inherent to all mankind and some of us try very hard to deny it?)

The Grave And Beyond

An implication of Einstein’s relativity theories is the existence of so-called black holes. These are celestial objects that are so incredibly dense that all material structure is crushed into a single point. And another implication of relativity is that the stronger the gravitational field, the slower time progresses. At the so-called event horizon (that’s the edge) of a black hole, time stands still.

But that means that if we could place an observer inside a black hole, he would see the rest of the universe pass within the blink of an eye. In fact, he would see all the other black holes (or rather the radiation that flows from them) zip in an out of existence. But he wouldn’t be able to tell whether the images he sees originate from outside the black hole or not. All he sees are signals that are inside. Between his ears.

An infinite volume within a finite diameter.

Einstein figured out that mass curves space-time. If we would depict the 3 dimensions of space as a 1-dimensional rubber string, a massive object would lean in on that string and create a crater-like indentation. Light from that massive object would have to travel up the crater to finally reach open, flat space. But that means that a space-traveler who decides to travel very near the star would have to travel much further (down the crater and back up again) than a space traveler who decides to give the star and its crater a wide birth. And that means that the radius of the crater (from the edge to the star) is much larger than half the diameter (from one point on the diameter to a point directly on the other side).

In black holes space is curved so dramatically that the radius becomes infinite. And that means that even though the diameter of a black hole is finite, the volume inside a black hole is infinite, which makes it effectively as large as the universe it lives in. To an observer inside a black hole, there is absolutely no difference between believing that (a) the black hole sits inside the universe or (b) the universe sits inside the black hole.

There are several strong indications that the mental sphere is a self-similar replica of the material sphere. And sure enough, the human mind seems to work quite alike a black hole. A human mind isn’t structured according to a temporal lattice (memories of what happened years ago may be much stronger than what happened this morning) and the space needed to contain a human mind is much smaller than the space the mind contains.

Just like physicist deem it folly to demand to know whether an observer is in an accelerating rocket or stationary in a gravitational field, so is it folly to demand to know whether something is between our ears or not. To physicists there is no difference between the two and mankind’s reality view should also not try to make a difference between believed reality and absolute reality.

It’s a wonderful, wonderful world - out there and in here, and let God’s will be done, in heaven as it is on earth.

“The Kingdom of God is not coming with your careful observations; nor will it be said, ‘here it is, or there it is.’ For behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”
- Luke 17:20-21

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A tree planted by the water

"Blesed is the man who trusts in the Lord and whose trust is the Lord. For he will be like a tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes, but its leaves will be green, and it will not be anxious in a year of drought, nor cease to bear fruit." - Jeremiah 17:7-8
Source: the delightful blog called WordsWay:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Counting Blessings whilst Heeding George’s Tree

Lately I’ve woken up to the notion that I should be counting my blessings, for blessed I am. I’m married to the most wonderful woman in the world, I’m surrounded by a loving family and cheerful neighbors, and the website is making enough money to live on. Things were quite different a few years back – “God is teaching you valuable lessons,” was the ubiquitous observation, but I couldn’t wait to see the lessons end and rewards to start.

And that seems to be happening right now. And so I’m counting. I’m counting every kiss, every click, every sunny day I spend at Mica’s Paradise, every cup of nana tea I drink, and every bag of walnuts neighbors hand me when I pass by on my everlasting journey to find access to the river.

The other day Mica asked me why I wouldn’t move to her Paradise permanently. Even though it would be a wish come true and there are houses for sale here, and some land too, funds, unfortunately, are stretched pretty thin. I’ve been an engineer half my life, and I’m sure I could build a house all by myself, but where, if I only have money for either land or material?

Mica took me around the back of her house and calmly said, “Build your house here. I’m giving you this land.”

Moved to tears, I counted yet another blessing. It was almost too good to be true, and as my eyes swept over the plot, I realized there was nothing to keep me from building a house right there, behind Mica’s house, except for… George’s walnut tree.

George is a friendly neighbor who tends his vineyard and takes care of other people’s land while he is at it. I’d seem him many times, shuffle around the walnut tree behind Mica’s house, tending that thing like it was his own child. He pruned it in the spring, watered it in the summer, and every now and then he brought bags of expensive fertilizer from town in his rinky-dink truck, and dispensed it carefully at the base of the tree.

George's wallnut tree in Mica's Paradise

As I was standing there, already estimating where the living room was going to be, George appeared, walked up to the tree, laid his hands on it and looked up into its leafy branches. There was no way that he was going to let me chop down that tree to build a house, I figured. But I figured wrong.

    “Mica tells me you’re going to build a house here,” he said, looking at me, strangely vacantly.
    “Well, I won’t be able to, George. That tree already lives here.”
    “That tree,” said George, shaking his head, “hasn’t produced a single walnut in the whole decade and a half that I’ve been pampering it. It’s wasting dirt, and I told Mica last week that she should have it chopped down. I’ve already sharpened the axe back in the shed. That tree is a goner. We’ll use its wood to fire the stove. It’ll burn all winter.”

    “I see,” I said, averting my eyes back to the land, estimating where the living room was going to be. The kitchen would be at the back of the house. The master bedroom would be above the living room, and above the kitchen would be a guest room. I’m sure there are lots of people in town who, like I, need a few days at Mica’s Paradise, to worship the Lord in the peace and quiet of nature.

And of course I’d build an incredible office for myself, somewhere on the second floor. I’ll have all my books there, and an Internet connection. And during the day I’ll be up there, studying Scriptures and writing articles to post on the main website of Abarim Publications. And in the evening we’ll host neighborhood Bible studies on the porch, looking out over the river.

I’m counting my blessings because there are a lot of them to count. But I can’t also wait to start shedding some serious walnuts. George’s axe, after all, is laying back in the shed, sharp as a chisel.

George's walnut tree; soon to make way for a modest family house and a warm fire

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The kingdoms tottered

"The nations made an uproar,
The kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice,
The earth melted'
-Psalm 46:6
Photo by  Chris Kotsiopoulos: http://www.greeksky.gr/files/atmospheric.htm

Monday, October 31, 2011

Martin Luther - Reluctant Revolutionary

It's the 31st of October; half a millennium after Martin Luther hammered his 95 theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg and sparked the Reformation. And as a big-F5 for your memory, watch this wonderful PBS production on the life and works of Martin Luther - Reluctant Revolutionary.

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Good, the Bad, and The Postman

The Postman
Last night I watched a bit of The Postman before I could stop myself. The Postman, you’ll remember, was one of a few clear indications that the brilliance of Dances With Wolves was only an accident. As if Water World hadn’t convinced everybody that Kevin Costner shouldn’t be entrusted with money beyond the price of a Big Mac, a few die-hards foolishly funded Costner’s next attempt to a post-apocalyptic masterpiece, and this while the genre in its broadest sense should have been abandoned after Mad Max anyway. Perhaps we would have been saved from the Left Behind series. You can’t plant a tree if you don’t have a compost layer, after all.

The Postman tells of a world in which no formal government exists, and people live huddled together in make-shift villages, hiding from each other and especially from the movie’s primary bad-guy: General Bethlehem (whose provocative name doesn’t provoke because it’s marvelously unclear what the deal is). Enter the postman (Kevin Costner), who became the postman because he found a dead real postman and helped himself to his outfit. But the outfit made the man, and the man fell neatly in a kind of messianic role, namely that of restoring communication between the various settlements.

Enter the General, who wants to maintain chaos in which to play war, and who subsequently takes a decisive dislike to the postman, who wants to create a natural kind of order. All this is an obvious instance of the tried good-and-evil dialogue, and a clever contribution to the debate on whether Jesus of Nazareth was indeed God’s son or only some passerby who was involuntarily adopted by the architects of the Messianic legend. But alas, the movie’s daft execution and primary themes make it virtually impossible to render it any respect in aforementioned matters. So you figure that the Biblical Jesus is an elaborate hoax based on some historic hick named Jesus of Nazareth? Whose legend rose to prominence by the warring efforts of insurrectionists, whose own compass inflated in the false vacuum created by the collapsing Roman Empire? Well, hurray, that’s very deep.
Kev and the General slug it out

The Postman’s world consists of clearly distinguished good-guys (peace-loving victims who want to reestablish Pax Americana) and bad guys (war loving hoodlums who probably destroyed the US in the first place). When the bad guys kill a good guy, the rush of cello’s swells and audiences are guided into heart-felt gasps, as our hero staggers and crushes in slow motion to the earth, and dust rises like a freed soul from where the body falls. When the good guys kill a bad guy, however, none of them shows any awareness of how very awful it is to kill another human being, even if the good guys are obviously forced to do such a horrible thing because the bad guys were going to do it to them.

Even in our own present day and age, the archetype of good guys versus bad guys has been long found blasé. We now like to believe that there’s a bit of the good guy and the bad guy in all of us, and which one of the two guys wins depends on which guy you feed.

But that too is blasé. Jesus (that is: Jesus the Biblical literary character) teaches that only God is good, and since we’re not God, none of us deserves the predicate good-guy. We’re all bad-guys, so that moves things right along.

We bad guys have no clear fix on what is good, so we have no idea what to shoot for. And that brings about the strenuous notion that we shouldn’t shoot at all. Mankind is lead to wherever it must and will go, and in the mean time, we are told to love our enemies and our neighbors like ourselves, take care of the world and worship God alone.

But, you may ask, what if a guy like General Bethlehem shows up? And that’s the point we’re trying to make: it’s highly likely that a man like Bethlehem will show up and that he will gather a following. But when he does, he can only be successfully “dealt with” by non-violent opposition. Bethlehem too must and will go to where God will lead him. There’s not a single instance in world-history where a society takes up arms against tyranny, whether domestic or foreign, and not only deposes the original tyrant but frees itself from tyranny all together. Even the US today still suffers greatly from the burden of the right to bear arms in order to form a coalition against any invading force, not because there are no forces that would love to invade the US but because of the many Bethlehems that can’t wait to shoot a fellow Postman.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Girl in a mirror dimly

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I
shall know fully just as I also have been fully known" - 1 Corinthians 13:12

Source: http://ciracar.com/amazing-reflection-photography

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Nephilim & the Curious Case of the Similarity between the Sons of Anak and the Post-Exilic Levite Gatekeepers

A Nephil (close-up)
A lot has been written (i.e. guessed and fantasized) about the enigmatic Nephilim who lived before the flood (Genesis 6:4) and managed to survive the flood somehow (Numbers 13:33 - because they were extra-terrestrial or spirit beings?). But as I looked at the name Ahiman, the plot thickens even more:

Ahiman is one of three sons of Anak, and the Anakim are a sub-class of the Nephilim (Numbers 13:33) and the Rephaim (Deuteronomy 2:10). The three sons of Anak are driven out of Hebron (previously called Kiriath-arba) by Caleb (Joshua 15:14), and Hebron, you'll remember, was the original capital of Israel under David, as decreed by God Himself (2 Samuel 2:1). Somehow, however, the Anakim made it back to Hebron, and were subsequently slain by Judah during the secondary annexation campaign, and that right after they conquered and burned Jerusalem, which can hardly be a coincidence (Judges 1:10).

After the establishment of the united monarchy under David and Solomon, the leptonic breach occurs and the united kingdom continues as Israel and Judah. Israel is deported to Assyria and Judah (and Simeon within its borders) goes off to Babylon. When the first wave of Jews returns, a rudimentary social structure is established. Possibly in anticipation of there ever being gates again, a small contingent of four Levites is assigned gate-keeping duty and is stationed at the fringes of the Levite camp (1 Chronicles 9:17). Utterly curious, however, is the undeniable symmetry between the names of the Anakim who lived in Hebron, and the Levite proto-gate-keepers:


I have no explanation for this and so far I haven't found any commentary that even touches on this phenomenon. I'm curious to learn what others think of this. Do you think it's a coincidence void of any further meaning? Or is there something fabulous going on?
Please leave a comment if you have an opinion. And while you're at it, post this article on Facebook and wherever to attract more input.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Greatness of our God!

"Let my teachings drop as the rain,
My speech distill as the dew,
As the droplets on the fresh grass
And as the showers on the herb.
For I proclaim the Name of the Lord;
Ascribe greatness to our God!"
- Deuteronomy 32:2-3

The original source of this photo is unknown to us here at Abarim. Do you know who made this photo? Please let us know and we'll add a link.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

J.K. Rowling and Christ.

This J.K. Rowling quote is circling the Internet and as it circled onto my screen and subsequently onto my Facebook page, a friend asked if, perhaps, Rowling’s rock bottom has anything to do with Christ. If so, it would be odd because, as my friend said, “I don't see any sort of Christian ethics in her writings. Wizards, sorcerers, magic, all things the Christians are warned to stay away from.

I don’t see anything in J.K. Rowling because I don’t read J.K. Rowling. That’s not because of some deep and meaningful reason; I just never was drawn to the whole fantasy genre. But she seems to be quite a contemplative person – has gone through the hell of divorce and clinical depression – and inadvertently expresses her complexities in her art. She grew up Christian and shows allegiance to Christianity, even though it would probably not hurt her successes to do otherwise. 

I’m guessing that part of the success of the Harry Potter books comes from its fresh reflection of a very real world, full of soul-sucking demons and nasty über-spirits and mysterious forces that we all experience but can neither place, name nor identify. I don’t think she referred to Christ as the Rock of her bottom, but I am curious to see why God chose to bless her so extravagantly anyway. I’m fearing that the Christian Christ we expect to be told of in properly elevating writing is not going to be the Christ who will be found when it’s too late to change our theologies. And while I’m waiting for it all to unfold, I quietly recall that Jesus was found first by a group of Iranian magicians who were clumping after some astral sign they saw.

"It's a pitty we're not trying for a bit of inter-House unity"

Friday, October 14, 2011

God With Us!

O boy! O boy! It took me three trips to the supermarket, this afternoon, to lock and load for the game tonight. I got salty sticks, killer pretzels, cheese nips and a wide rank and file of potatoes chips, mustard and dips you’d murder your neighbor for!

I got Coke, 7-Up, five kinds of beer, two bottles of locally produced wine, a pint of kamikaze sake and vodka in a bottle shaped like a Kalashnikov. At the veggie market I secured a battery of cucumbers and red paprika, pickles, tomatoes and those little bullet onions. I’m gonna cut them up and splay them on a plate like a bunch of casualties.

All my friends are coming over because I got the biggest TV and the coldest fridge. And we’re gonna cheer our guys on until they whoop those weasels something awful. We can’t help it; it’s in our blood! We’re The Partisans, or Red Star, or so I’m told, and tonight we’re going head to head with those other guys, Red Star or Partisans -- I’m not sure, it depends on who we are. All I know is that we’re great and they suck!

But apart from that, I must haste to add, it’s nevertheless cute how once meaningful and terror-striking names are now so often applied to elements of a social expression. The red star was once the venerated or abhorred emblem of communism, essentially the system that created Yugoslavia, inflated its economy and left it a smoldering hole in the ground after its demise.

The Partisans were once roaming groups of merciless militants operating in occupied Yugoslavia, fighting the enemy by means of guerilla warfare. Now one is the name of some football club and the other is the name of the best football team in the world!

And when our guys have whooped their guys, I got an even better treat for my friends. The other entertainment station we get here in Serbia, namely CNN, is showing updates and specials on an even more awesome game: Das Kapital versus The Terrorists!

O boy! O boy! I sure hope I got enough beer in the fridge.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A glowing review of Cross On Me on Amazon

A reader of Cross On Me who calls himself  Vesa S left a wonderful review on Amazon.co.uk:

"Cross On Me is a novel about a mad or a brilliant man. Book is hard to put down once you start and it contains many thought provoking ideas and parables that tickled my mind long time after finishing with the book.

We are following the journey of Qoe though highways and small roads of USA, Canada and Alaska, but book contains so many layers, symmetries and references that it hardly can be said to be a journey log.

I enjoyed the rich language and fast moving scenes from all over the world."

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Travel to Israel

Guest post by Nisha Sharma

Each year crowds of tourists tour Israel, both as a way to discover the natural and historic beauty of this fascinating land as well as to gain greater spiritual insights. Once you have toured Israel you will certainly never read the Bible in the same way again. By following the same path as Christ and experiencing the sights that served as the backdrop for so many important Biblical events you will be able to strengthen your Christian faith and come away with a renewed spiritual understanding.

Travel to Jerusalem

While there are numerous sights and attractions to see throughout Israel, there are several holy cities that should certainly be on your must see list. These cities include Jerusalem, Nazareth, Jericho and Bethlehem. During your tour of Israel you will encounter a wide variety of well known sights and which remain important even today, including the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcre, the Garden Tomb, The Mt. of Olives, The Shepherd’s field, the Sea of Galilee, the Western Wall and the Temple Mount Jerusalem. You can also expect to see the site where Elijah took part in the contest with the false prophets of Baal, Muhraka.

Taking advantage of the chance to visit the holy land of Israel is an important opportunity that should not be missed by any Christian. There are many different types of tours of Israel available, including tours that will highlight important Biblical events and sights as well as study and seminar tours. Tours typically last between eight and twelve days, depending on the number of sights to be included in the selected tour.

Regardless of the length of your tour, you can be assured that each stop in Israel will etch a significant memory within your mind and touch your heart while providing a truly life-changing experience. A Christian tour of Israel often serves to ignite one’s faith in a way that is incomparable to any other travel experience. Your knowledge of the Bible will be enhanced while your faith is strengthened. The places included in tour itineraries are specifically chosen to help each participant develop a deeper reflection of their own personal Christian walk.

A trip to Israel would certainly never be complete without visiting the city of Jerusalem. As the most popular city in the entire country, Jerusalem offers fabulous views as well as increased insight into the old and new parts of the city. The holiest site in the city, the Western Wall, is situated in the Jewish Quarter. The site where Christ was crucified, Golgotha, is another site that should not be missed during your visit. Other important sites include King David’s tomb, Hezekiah’s Tunnel and the opportunity to cross over the Sea of Galilee by cable car. Despite any amount of controversy, Israel remains one of the most sacred sites in the world and is one that each Christian should experience within their lifetime.

My name is Nisha Sharma I work as the editor for Holiday365. I have been representing the business for the last 2 years now. Holiday365 offers some great deals in the UK, please visit our website to see offers on holiday parks.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stars in the heavens

"Now look towards the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them."
And He said, "So shall your descendants be." - Genesis 15:5

This magnificent photo was made by Thomas Zimmer, and retrieved from http://500px.com/photo/2003025

Monday, October 10, 2011

The name Boanerges doesn't mean "Sons Of Thunder" at all!

James and John - Boanerges
For the ever-expanding Abarim Publications' Biblical Name Vault we recently had a go at the name Boanerges, which is a nickname that Jesus bestows on the brothers James and John; sons of Zebedee.

The evangelist Mark says, "And He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom He gave the name Peter), and James, the son of Zebedee, and John, the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, "Sons Of Thunder");..." (Mark 3:16-17)

We had expected to be able to effortlessly relate the name Boanerges to some Aramaic or Hebrew compound but much to our surprise, we couldn't. Some Internet searching revealed that this name has plagued scholars for centuries, and the leading theories on the etymology of this name either take a whole lot of liberties in bending Semitic verbs out of their proper compass of meaning and allowing transliterations from Aramaic to Greek that make not a lick of sense, or else, the rather bold assumptions that either Jesus had no idea what He was saying, or else that Mark was clueless about Semitic languages.

Here at Abarim Publications we rarely get nervous and we love a good challenge, so we sank our teeth in the name Boanerges and came out chewing on the other side. One thing is certain: the name Boanerges doesn't mean "Sons Of Thunder" at all.

Check out our article, and let us know if you have any objections: The amazing name Boanerges, meaning and etymology.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Halleluja in Alaska

A clip that combines Alaska AND the greatest piece of music ever made. Made my day!

See our article on the meaning of the word Halleluja

Friday, October 7, 2011

Mica’s Paradise

Once or twice a month I’ve had it with city life, and then I flee to Granny Mica (say Mitsa). Granny Mica lives about half an hour south-east of Belgrade in a cottage on the Danube. She has an enormous garden, and where her garden stops, vineyards start in all directions. Crickets chirp, and way off in the distance a dog may raise its voice, but other than that, it’s wondrously peaceful at Mica’s. She is about a hundred years old, has no running water so the toily is behind the tree in the middle of the garden, and she loves me. When I show up, with the town still buzzing in my ears, she waits for me at the gate, grabs me and presses a few big, slobbery kisses all over me. Then she sets me down next to her and sits there, watching me trying to catch my breath, while cats and dogs jump me and settle in my lap.

Granny Mica on her porch in Paradise
During the day, the trees absorb the sunlight and radiate it, glowing bright green. And in the evening a honey colored haze rises from the river. When we want to drink of cup of tea, we walk into the garden (away from the toily tree in the middle of it) and pick some nana-leaves. Pears and apples hang from trees everywhere; you can just reach out and pick one. And nothing here is ever sprayed with chemicals. Neither the tea nor the apples nor the pears nor the cherries nor the grapes that hang in big fat clusters from branches that are only disturbed by the rare passer-by.

The Dabube river is a few hundred meters away—it takes a trick or two to get there. Paths exist but they’re not marked and you have know about them, which I don’t. But that makes for wonderful walks in the cool of the afternoon, trying to find out where all the paths go.

And on my journeys I pass the occasional shed or small house, invariably occupied by ancient little ladies with brilliant, pearl white hair and the eyes of young girls. I don’t speak the language, but everybody knows I’m Mica’s guest, so they call my name from afar and wave at me, and when I approach they give me slices of pie and hands fulls of nana-leaves and cherries and pears and apples.

There are only two restrictions at Mica’s. I’m not allowed to go out exploring for a path to the river while wearing sandals and shorts. Mica and her neighbors never cease to warn me that there are snakes hiding in the grass. And then, of course I’m not allowed to eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. But who would want to do a foolish thing like that?

Me and the Toily Tree
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