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June 6, 2014

Posted by michaelnjohns in Uncategorized.
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I was at the workplace for my part time job, and had just clocked in.  If you clock in early they fix the punch so you’re in at your appointed time.  But in fairness to them, if you clock out early they bump it forward to your appointed ending time, as long as their 7 minute window isn’t breached.  And, if you run out of work to do near the end of the shift, they pay you for a full day because you showed up.  It’s hourly, but they sometimes run out of work to do because the support staff behind our production team hasn’t fed the work to our system yet.  I was a little early and noticed a little button that said something like “view user information,” I had never clicked before.  So being as impetuous as I sometimes always am, I clicked it.

It showed my information, from the time I started working there until now.  But the verbiage used by the system was…  Well I’m not sure if it was hilarious or disturbing.  Maybe strange is the word I’m floundering for.  I’ll let you be the judge as I am still reflecting on what it means.

It said my start date but proclaimed it “The Beginning of Time.”  I swear I am not making this up.  Apparently the earth is younger than you all thought, as the “Beginning of Time” is somewhere in the latter part of 2006.  Take that, Old Earth-ers.  Not Millions and Millions as Carl Sagan estimated. Carl Sagan approximates the forming of the earth at about 4,142,465,753.42466 years ago – which puts the beginning of earth on about June 4 (http://peace.saumag.edu/faculty/kardas/Courses/HP/Lectures/sagan.html ).  Not spun into motion 6017 years ago, in October 4004 BC (James Ussher, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ussher_chronology).  Take that, Young Earth-ers. Nope.  My computer said “The Beginning of Time” was September 2006.  If it’s right because it’s on the internet, surely it’s just as right because my computer said it.  If life begins in the beginning, unless you were born after 2006, you, friends, are only 7 years old.

There was no end date or projected end date.  Instead it declared my end date as “Forever.”  No kidding.  If this is forever, I must have died and gone to heaven by now.  Wait.  Um…

http://img.izismile.com/img/img4/20111025/640/morning_picdump_640_high_18.jpg

Yeah, I’m doing it for my family and also for me.  And it isn’t paradise, but it isn’t hell either.

How old are you?  How old do you feel?  Friends of mine comment on my childlike impetuousity, some in less than flattering ways.  I’ve been described as an “old soul,” when tapped for wisdom, but if any wisdom I share actually works, I stole that from the Bible.  I’ve been described as “foolish,” even “childish.”  That’s the cold stinging truth, although it’d be nice if you toned that down and said I was “refreshingly childlike, with an irrepressible, youthful mind.”   And in life and marriage I’ll assert, I only feel 23.  That is to say, old enough to be legal and young enough everything is still good.  But this darn white hair growing in my beard…  and the silver threads creeping onto my head…  must be lying. When my back is sore, or my feet are tired, unless I am resting I feel about 65, which is telling me it’s time to retire and rest from whatever labor I’m involved in that’s making me so tired.  (For the record I am somewhere in the low middle in between those two ages.) 

∞ – that little math symbol means “infinity.”  I’m only awake from just before 7AM to just after 12:30 or 1AM, working the 8 hours in the morning and the 4 and a half part time at night.  I’ve been at this two job thing for a while, but it’s starting to feel like infinity.  Thank God it’s Friday. Sadly, I feel like I’m on a wheel trying to revolve it from need to pay the bills to paid the bills, and I’m afraid I’m actually on a Möebius strip, getting nowhere but back to the same side.  Same thing with arguments about certain things, they go nowhere.

I wasn’t here at the beginning of Earth-time.  I wasn’t here at the beginning of Creation or Big Bang or whatever flips your trigger.  Neither was Carl Sagan and neither were you.  Carl took what he thought to be an educated guess, it’s a theory, not something we can go back and prove.  Ussher did his calculations and took an educated guess, but he wasn’t there either and we can’t go back and see it happen so we can’t prove that either.  Does it make a huge difference to you if the earth is 4 billion, 140 million years old and started on June 4, or 6,017 and started sometime in October?  Scientific theory that wants to edge God out asserts they can prove theirs.  Scientific theory that wants to shove God in asserts they can prove theirs.  At the risk of having stepped in it, I actually believe the Bible tells it right, but I’m not as precise feeling about it as Ussher.  Speaking as a fan of Dr Who, maybe it’s one of those wibblywobbly things that, surprisingly, I don’t believe requires a precise answer.  It goes to show how people can take what they want and pay their money, and make their choices, no matter how foolish those choices may or may not turn out to be.  Whole religious movements started out because someone made a calculation, made a prediction, and the blind led the blind until they all fell into a pit.  Or someone said they found an ancient manuscript, but they don’t have it any more, because the hobgoblins took it to the mountain.  Or someone wrote a pretty good story with an intriguing philosophical viewpoint.  But that doesn’t make them right.  It doesn’t make what they wrote somehow holy, especially when the details are so paradoxically different from things like manuscripts and books they claim are also true.  Nor do the guesses of Jimmy or Carl, however educated, make them right.  God asked Job, near the end of his trials, if he (Job) was there when He (God) made the earth.  He stammered and fumbled.  Some actually take that verse and think God wasn’t being hyperbolic.  They actually believe he (Job) was there.  Well if he was there, he should have been able to answer.  In my humble opinion, none of us were there, so we don’t know.  Maybe God asked him by way of saying, if it’s My plan perhaps it’s outside the scope of your understanding, so hush and I’ll take care of things.  Or perhaps it’s the same as in Romans 9, where Paul talks about some vessels being created unto honor and some being created unto wrath.

Paul told both Peter and Titus (Titus 3, II Timothy 2) to steer clear of genealogies, and of probing the infinite depths of idiotic questions because they just start fights.  Whose family is better, yours or mine or theirs?  Well my ancestor was a President.  Well his ancestor was a bank robber.  Well your ancestor was famous.  Well his ancestor was a drunk. Well, well, well.  What have they done for me lately?  Is my life better because they did whatever they did?  Does not matter.  They aren’t here, they’re dead.  It means nothing to me, it affects nothing in my life.  When did the Earth get created, or form because cosmic particles coalesced and cooled in just the right random coincidental way?  Doesn’t matter.  I wasn’t there and neither were you.  Those answers mean nothing to me, and affect nothing in my life.  We’re here now.  What have we done lately to help another person or make things better?

 

People waste so much time arguing over how old God is, how old the Earth is, scientific and other pseudo-scientific and genealogical and genetic and dare I say Law, and other name-your-field inquiries that don’t go anywhere or contribute to the welfare of anyone except the person spending the grant money.  How do I get on that gravy train?  Ask a silly question and make it sound important enough to explore for an answer.  And then publish my findings in the scientific, or pseudoscientific, or legal, or Biblical Studies, journal.  The scientists are looking for God so hard they named a subatomic particle after Him.  Or maybe it’s just that they want God to be small.  It’s fascinating, but does it really contribute to a better world?

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?  a) You don’t believe in angels, or don’t believe in them the same way I do.  b) I don’t care.  Why would they do something so stupid? c) depends on the size of the angels and the pin.  Get one of each and we’ll measure. Historically that question was asked by way of sarcasm, at people who ask questions like it, trying to disprove the existence of God, or delve into mysteries that are worth less to answer than “Has your (homeless) neighbor eaten today?”  Are there ghosts?  If there are ghosts, why don’t you believe in a God who created souls, and all other things?  What about demons?  Have you read the newspaper? There’s so much evil I don’t even think Satan needs to send them out as he already owns humans who do enough evil in the world, they’re not necessary (call me crazy but I believe demons do exist, since I believe angels and God exist).  Can God make a rock he can’t move?  Someone or someones, actually took the time to write this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omnipotence_paradox .  My head is spinning and I only looked at the first half of all of that.  But then I have my mind on other things so perhaps it’s just that I’m distracted.

In the spirit of jumping onto a gravy train and riding it all the way to the roast beef and mashed potatoes, I think it’d be fun to have one or two of those questions for my very own, with a per diem for my efforts, to ponder, to philosophize, to research, to write, and to publish until I am obscenely wealthy. until the earth is a better place and people are able to be better people because I was on it.

My favorite question reminds me of one of the old “how many fill-in-the-blank does it take to change a light bulb” questions.  It goes:

Q:  How many therapists does it take to change a light bulb?  
A:  One.  But the light bulb has to really want to change.

In that same spirit, here’s my favorite foolish theological question and my own favorite foolish answer:
Q:  Can the Omnipotent God make a rock that He can’t move?  
A:  Yes, it’s called the human heart, or the human spirit.  That has to want to move (change).  See II Chronicles 16:9, “For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His.”

Mental Note To Self:  He might strongly support me better if my heart was completely His. Maybe I wouldn’t need the night gig.

And Prayerful Note to God, please change my heart and fix my sights and my heart on You.  I want to see that.

Because God made us with free will, the first man, back at the beginning, had the ability to choose whether to obey or not.  He did the one thing God told him not to do.  He was advised it would cause bad things to happen.  He did it anyway, and then tried to put the blame on Eve.  More recently other legends have been written to explain the problem of evil.  Pandora’s box, a rose which by another name, again, just blames Eve.  Blame the Serpent, AKA Satan.  Blame Shiva, The Destroyer, who says destruction isn’t really a bad thing anyway.  Blame Loki, but he’s just playing a joke.  Blame Ahriman. Blame our strongly held illusions on our mutual path to enlightenment. Blame Voldemort.  Blame the guy who just selfishly and quite ignorantly, cut you off in traffic.  Or, look in a mirror.  Ignore the guy in the car behind you who’s flipping you the “you’re number one!” sign because you cut him off.  

Because we still have a free will, one of those principles which is rarely trumped, is that we have a choice to do things that are good, or do things that are bad, or fritter away our time doing nothing of impact and lasting value.  God doesn’t usually step in there and make us follow Him and do good work.  Just like Adam and the tree of knowledge options, Moses and the burning bush instructions, Noah and the ark blueprints, and Jonah’s ticket to Nineveh offered the choice of whether to do what God wanted or not, so also do we.  And then we live with the consequence of what was, or wasn’t, done.  Don’t get me wrong, God has been very persuasive in the past, so if it really needs to be done He’ll keep asking until someone comes along and does it.

If nothing else, it’ll keep you entertained and working hard in the time between “The Beginning of Time” and “Forever.”  I think those questions people ask like that say something about the position of their hearts, more than the depth of their character on being able to ask some unanswerable question.  The dawn of time, the age of the Earth, they mean nothing to me, and affect nothing in my life.  We’re here now.  What have we done lately to help another person or make things better?  And because we can’t go back to the past, what’s our plan for the future, and for eternity? 

Will we bury ourselves in minutiae and questions that don’t go anywhere?  Will we bury ourselves under mountains of proof of how good our family ancestry was, as if that furnishes some kind of proof of how worthy we are?  Or will we listen and see if God calls us?  And If we hear the call, who will answer?  Why not you?

Why not me?

I believe He calls all of us.  I may have questions and doubts just as Moses.  I may run the other way just as Jonah.  I may disobey just as Adam.  People may call me crazy, like I’m sure they called Noah as he was building the ark.  But I hope my answer is yes, when He calls me.  And I hope your answer is yes, too.

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“Every Writer Has A Movie Script” May 9, 2014

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The joke is that “every writer has a movie script” they’ve either written already and are desperately trying to get a film maker to read it and take on the project, or they’re writing currently. The same goes for novels. I saw it on the Simpsons because everything has been done by them already. (“When You Dish Upon A Star,” Season 10). They reject them because so many writers have great ideas, but they want the ones that won’t be disasters at the box office.

Well today I had an idea, and I’m half-joking that I’m going to write it. I’m not going to dish on what it’s about, but it’s hilarious to me. It’s just so almost scientifically possible, given the scene in the world today, scientific rumblings, and a key prophecy in the Bible. I love the genre, I can dish that without giving too much away. Speaking of box office disasters, “it’s the end of the world!” and “we’re all going to die,” said Glum from Gulliver’s Travels. I’m sure my script has got at least a snowballs chance in a fiery inferno. Hmm. How do I work that into my script? That is, if I suspend my own disbelief long enough to actually write this down.

If anyone knows any movie producers looking for the next brilliant project, they’ll have to wait because I’m still developing characters. Following the official policy for script submissions, it’ll have to be written first, submitted for reviews, selected off the piles, reviewed by the assistant’s assistant, ignored by the assistant, discarded, accidentally fall out of the janitor’s wheeled trash hopper, and land gloriously in front of James Cameron’s, Martin Scorsese’s or Christopher Nolan’s office door. It’s scientifically possible.

I wrote about how our jokes can become our best ideas ever, and change our lives. Maybe this is it. But I’m leaving out the talking pie. (sorry, it’s another reference from “When You Dish Upon A Star,” The Simpsons, Season 10) And my idea? People just might buy it!

I’m starting here, after some more coffee, whenever time permits: http://www.wikihow.com/Write-Movie-Scripts But I have so many other ideas, I feel like I’m already chasing the wind. What to write first?!

IRS Workers, Lawyers, Protestants, Catholics and (Other) Sinners March 27, 2014

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Conformity is treasured in the modern day. I can’t imagine it is much different now than any other time in history. Those geniuses that made the leaps of progress were frequently called heretics and dangers to society.

Socrates is now some kind of heroic figure, but he was judged by his city to be guilty of corrupting the minds of the youth (here read “contributing to the delinquency of a minor”, in modern law-speak). His crime was asking questions, which inspired his followers to ask questions, from which we now learn the Socratic teaching method. It’s a way of getting students, and wise men, to think by questioning the questions they are being encouraged to ask and the theses they are being asked to accept. Then, either ask the questions in a new perspective, or ask entirely different questions posing brand new theses. It was fine until they started asking about the political regimes and the social structure (here read “distribution of wealth and power”). Asked what he felt his punishment should be, he suggested they feed him and provide him with a per diem, for the rest of his life. The way I read the story, they agreed, and provided him one free drink before dinner.

I read with great interest the stories of several excommunicated by the church, and in hindsight, too many times, it sounds a little too much like the result of a power struggle, and a little too little like any actual heresy was being promoted. Certainly someone nicknamed Pedro the Cruel, who, the story goes, persecuted clergy and church members alike might be deserving of this. But several people who were judged by the papal authority to be “excommunicated,” and thereby forfeiting any hope of eternal salvation, according to those authorities, after being in hell for years, were recommunicated by the church.

This doesn’t sound right. Did these Popes and Bishops have God’s ear, or was God telling them in spite of their own wrath, that the people they were excommunicating would officially be kept out of heaven? It’s like a kind of eternal prison system- now you’re locked in hell; now you’re released and free to roam about heaven. Add a belief in purgatory not supported very well in the Old or New Testaments, and you have a whole new dimension The problem is, we don’t have the voice of God pronouncing these judgements. We have finite human beings making, they claim, infinite judgement calls. The ref made a bad call, coach, what can we do? Accept the score and suck up the penalty. Oh wait, here comes an instant replay. Or, the head ref discusses with the ref and they decide to remove the penalty.

My son played flag football last year, and made it all the way to the playoffs. In the last round of the championship game, in the last quarter, one of his team mates got a foul that cost them 15 yards, and ultimately, the game. But the call was fair. Everyone saw what happened, and the official, a human, explained to the other humans why that was a penalty, and the cost of what had been done according to the rule book.

But with these excommunications, it’s a human declaring an eternal divine judgement call, based on their interpretation of the Bible, or based on their feelings of affrontery, or based on their own lust for power and money. A call which may be reversed at the whim of the next human. What makes this fishy is one of my favorite verses about God, that He doesn’t change. If God declared to the pope that someone was excommunicated and eternally hellbound, why would God change his mind and declare to another pope, or to the same pope, “we’re cool now and he can come to heaven?” Highly dubious.

So it was, that Joan of Arc was excommunicated and burned at the stake for her crimes, and then, oh, nevermind, she can come to heaven now. That whole burning torturous murder? Um. er… ah… We’re sorry! Now she can be venerated as “Saint Joan of Arc.” King Philip the fair was excommunicated for not respecting the authority of the pope. “Ah, yes, quite, I’m personally declaring myself as co-equal with God, and kicking you out of eternity in heaven because you don’t like me.” How humble that pope must have been! How many know that Robert the Bruce, future King of Scotland and legendary hero, was excommunicated later for a killing he may or may not have personally committed, on his way to the throne? The English see Robert as a villain, the Scots revere him as heroic. Which means this quite likely had to do with power, as much, or more, than with sin.

Copernicus and Galileo were not officially kicked out of heaven, but they were strongly suspected of heresy and ordered not to teach. Their books were banned until 1758. At least they weren’t burned at the stake. 116 years of continual denial of scientifically verifiable facts about the earth’s position, an insignificant planet in a huge universe, did no favors to the relationship of scientists and science to the church and doctrines.

In the 20th Century, in 1962, for voicing an opinion not popular today, but popular then, that schools shouldn’t be racially integrated, two people in Louisiana were kicked out of the Catholic fellowship. After they recanted publicly they were let back into the church. Whether they repented or not is only God’s knowledge. But that one I have to agree with. In an absence of Love, can God be present? “…for God is Love.” (I John 4)

For speaking against any one of the popes, many were excommunicated. There’s a rumor all it requires to get kicked out is claiming that he’s a fallible human being just like all of the other humans on the planet. The “doctrine of Papal Infallibility,” was a popular ditty back in 1860 and 1870 and again in 1950 when they declared emphatically that Mary the Mother of Jesus ascended into heaven without facing physical death. Funny, none of the books that made it into the Protestant canon assert that one. Wikipedia.org/wiki/Papal_infallibility asserts “This authority is considered by Catholics to be apostolic and of divine origin.” But if the pope, and all who hold the office, are infallible, why did any of them ever recant on an excommunication from another “infallible” pope, or from themselves? Oh, there they answer, it’s only on certain matters and has to be something a council agrees to. Then it’s not real infallibility, as argumentum ad populum is a logical fallacy. (Just because a bunch of people agree on something doesn’t make it a fact. But followers are going to follow.)

Notwithstanding, the founders of the Church of England, and the leaders of the Protestant reformation, were declared not worthy of heavenly inheritance by the Catholic church despite years of thoughtful, prayerful study that ultimately resulted in the Bible falling into the hands of commoners in our own language. Don’t let the commoners read and think for themselves. Make them submit in fear of the church. But “There is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18) So if I’m frightened the church is going to kick me out, how unloving is that judgement? Why would I join an organization that teaches this but lets me fear their judgements? Wycliffe’s work was banned by the Church authorities. John Hus begged the church authorities to prove him wrong with the scriptures before he was burned at the stake.

Jesus too was considered a rebel in his day. He was a friend of sinners, like Matthew, a tax collector. Like Mary Magdalene, notorious by prior reputation, but forgiven by Jesus. If he forgave sin because he knew a heart was repentant, I have to say hallelujah, me next, please. Not only was he a friend of sinners, he did unauthorized work on the Sabbath day. Like healing the guy born blind. How just plain wicked is that?!

Those Protestant Christ followers are similar rebels, making up their minds after they read the Bible for themselves. They decide that “one mediator between God and Man” cuts out the confessional box, and penance. They decide that wine and bread is still wine and bread and the symbolic nature of the act doesn’t mean the elements are transformed into blood and flesh. It used to be called a doctrine around me, I affirm solemnly that I heard it called that, but now they’re saying transubstantiation isn’t a “doctrine, but a theory proposed to explain how Christ can be present in the Eucharist. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than just agreeing that “where two or three are gathered in [His] name, there he is in their midst.(Matthew 18:20)” Or does it?

I’m sorry if I’m stepping on your favorite dogma’s tail.

Does it boil down to the individual’s heart and their own personal relationship with God? I certainly hope so. Maybe God requires that if we’re following Jesus, we befriend “sinners” that the more pious among us wouldn’t associate with. I’ll let you decide for yourselves who the modern-day equivalent of “tax collectors, prostitutes and sinners” are, those were Jesus’ less-favored friends back in his day.

Perhaps we should befriend workers at the IRS, people who’ve had affairs or divorces or both, lawyers, Protestants, and even Catholics, among other more modern-day “sinners.” I know a lawyer and he’d love another friend. Anything to not be the butt of another lawyer joke. I don’t want to be a blind follower necessarily, but please don’t burn me at the stake when I think out loud and ask questions and make statements about what it says and what makes sense to me. Maybe the youth need someone to help them ask the right questions in the right way, so they can learn how to think differently.

Maybe I’m wrong, after all, I’m not infallible. I’ll take a lesson if you’ve got one. Oh, and yes, I would love a drink, but hold the hemlock if you please.