Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Books of Samuel ... Introduction

So, even in this most recent time of being ... well ... estranged from my habit of Bible study, I'll pick the Book up every now and again ... and as often as I do, I'll turn to the books of I and II Samuel. Mostly out of force of habit.

Maybe because I tend toward nostalgia ... and these passages remind me of a happier, more certain time in my faith. Yeah, back in the day when I thought I knew it all ... (there is a great deal of security -- false though it is --in thinking you've got it all figured out whether you do or don't). I think I sometimes want to feel how I felt back then when I was first reading these books ... which is an impossibility. Knowing what I know now I cannot possibly feel like I felt then ... right? Why would I even want to ... right?

But I am going, for the time being, to rather religiously assume that there may be something to this propensity of mine for Samuel. Dare I suggest that it may be the Spirit leading me back and back again to these same stories that so inspired and motivated me when I was younger (so much younger than today). Yeah ... let's assume that for the time being -- especially since during a very random visit to the School of Theology library I picked up a new (to me) commentary on the books of Samuel that has been absolutely illuminating.

So ... here I go again. The Books of Samuel!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Got it backward somehow ...

My twisted little mind has such a facility for WORRY ...

When I am worried {and I am nearly always worried about something} I perform ... get up without the alarm clock, stay up without complaining, skip meals without noticing ... I become a veritable Hercules of anxiety. During those times there are only two things for it ...

  • I work until the situation is fixed to some level of satisfaction.


  • I find something to momentarily relieve me ... entertain or distract the pain {yeah ... I think that's accurate ... I think it is akin to pain} of the anxiety away.

It's very jacked-up ... and I am sure that it is shortening my life. Trying to resist the urge to quote an old stand-by verse of scripture but it's ringing like a bell in my mind at the moment:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

--that's Philippians 4:4-8
... much easier said than done ... but well worth dwelling upon. Rejoice. Don't worry. Dwell upon the transcendent. I'll take it for now. Gonna need to read some more later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Resisting the Urge to Congeal ...

... in LIFE as well as in one's reading of the BIBLE ...

... from Walter Brueggemann "First and Second Samuel: Interpretation"

Focus on "the whole story" is an urgent need of our interpretive situation. We have learned to read the Bible either in bits and pieces or according to a dogmatic presupposition that domesticates the text. Artistic attention to the shape and flow on the whole does not promise a "true" reading or a "final" reading but only this reading now. The text, like our life, is so open that it will hardly stand still for our interpretation. he interpretive act itself is a recurring decision not to "congeal." A recent novel by Gail Godwin contains a telling and penetrating conversation about congealing (p.4). One character, Ursula, instructs the narrator, Justin:

"There are two kinds of people," she once decreed to me emphatically. "One kind you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas the other kind keeps moving, changing. With these people you can never say, 'X stops here,' or 'Now I know all there is to know about Y.' That doesn't mean their unstable. Ah, no, far from it. They are fluid. They keep moving and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion they are the only people who are still alive. You must be constantly on your guard, Justin, against congealing."

The live word resists our congealing, in life and in interpretation. That does not mean interpretation is unstable. It means, rather, that we may continue to expect surprises and can never say, "Now I know all about the text."

Diamonds in the Detritus ... or What?

Nothing special here ... just a day to start.

Once upon a time, when my faith was young and my heart for God and people was stronger, I used to fill pages with all kinds of musings about what I was doing, what I wanted to do and what I would absolutely do to "make my calling and election sure." Been a long time since those days ... I don't even think like that anymore -- I certainly don't talk like that ... not even to myself.

Heard an atheist say recently, "I don't believe in God anymore ... but I do miss Him." And a character on a TV show say, "Me and Jesus have an arrangement ... we still talk form time to time but we have both agreed to see other people." Don't think I am there yet ... but am I heading there? Is that where I want to go?

Fact is I have nearly completely fallen out with my old form of religion ... and I don't think that is either all good or all bad, it just is. Some of what I believed was very jacked-up ... destructive to me and to others ... did damage that I am dealing with now and may deal with for a long time to come. Some of it was life-saving, life-affirming, spirit-freeing. The problem is that the knot tying all the good and the bad together is complicated ... it may be inextricable at this point.

I am inclined to leave the thing alone, a bound-up steaming mess is all that's left of the part of me I used to call "faith" or "spirituality." Forgive my vernacular but it is like shit now ... that's what I have made of it ... that is how I have treated it.

"But," says the cock-eyed optimist to the astigmatic pragmatist, "there may yet be some good here." And he may be right ... because in all these years of swallowing everything that was fed me there may have been some valuable things ... hell, I know there were some valuable things. It may look like shit now ... and maybe that's all it is, really. But then again, there may be diamonds in it.

So how 'bout let's don the hazmat suit and dive into the sewer here and see if we can't retrieve something ... I don't know ...


Worth a shot, ain't it?