Thursday, December 31, 2009

Donna and Dan - 21

More of the continuing saga of the love history of Dan and Donna, being just hours away from entering the year of our 25th anniversary. I began writing a once-a-week story or poem to or for Donna about four weeks ago and will continue the countdown to our June 1st anniversary...

I returned home from Murray in shame (from dropping out) and in love (from having met Donna). I was 18 and jobless so I did what comes naturally to young fellas in such situations: I joined a band.

Early in 1982, two of my best buds and I started a Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) band we called Remembrance.

Initially, we were just two acoustic guitars and a bit of harmony doing a few covers (BJ Thomas, anyone?) and a few originals. Our role models were Keith Green, Steve Camp, Larry Norman and DeGarmo and Key.

We wanted to save the church and the world with earnest Christian rock and roll and searing lyrics. We met regularly for prayer, Bible study and band practice. We would go on to play extremely sincere, exceptionally below average light Christian rock for about ten years, recording two cassettes of music ("Mechanical Man" and the lesser quality sophomore effort, "Name I Can't Even Remember").

We traveled all around Louisville and the Southeast US playing churches, street corners and wherever we could get a gig, giving our cassettes away for donations or for free. But I'm getting ahead of myself (by the way, the slideshow video accompanying this posted contain actual photos and scratchy recordings of da band - be warned, it's not pretty...).

Whilst I looked for a real job and began the work of starting this band, Donna and I wrote letters to each (and wrote and wrote and wrote), made phone calls and had the occasional visit - mostly her traveling to see me, as I recall. We missed each other with a passion in those weeks and months in between visits. Oh, how we longed to be in each others' arms, if only for a quick visit.

Donna and I shared an enthusiasm for CCM and I'm relatively sure that when it came time for our February and March birthday gifts, we probably gave each other cassettes of maybe Amy Grant, Brown Bannister, Andrus, Blackwood and Company and, of course, the late, great Keith Green.

We have saved most of our letters we wrote in those first few years of long distance dating (Murray is about 4 1/2 hours from Louisville). Here's an excerpt from one from that first year...


Thanx for the letter. Sorry I sounded depressed on the phone. I'm kinda wantin' to call you now, but reckon I better not. I'll answer your letter first.

Thanks for telling me I'm beautiful. I don't know why you're so good to me when I only give you a bunch of headaches...

And on it would go. She'd write about college. I'd write about job-hunting or Remembrance or we'd both write about Christian bands we were listening to and the news from our respective churches and families. We couldn't afford many calls and so writing is all we had, and writing is what we did.

Being young, unemployed and with few resources, finding ways to make that trip across those million miles between us was nearly impossible but it was the one thing we wanted more than anything.

Could this new, deeply-felt love withstand this distance, with no assurance of any change to come for years?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Prepare ye the way

Misty Path
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Roughly eight centuries before the birth of Jesus, Isaiah wrote...

The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me.
God sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken,
Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners.
God sent me to announce the year of God's grace...

Israel was a companion of hard times and acquainted with grief, being a conquered people in a foreign land. Isaiah assured them that the oppression and injustice which they faced daily were not part of God's will.

Hundreds of years later, young Mary - still living in an occupied state and familiar with oppression and hard times - echoed Isaiah's protest, rejoicing in the news that she would bear a son, saying...

What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
God's mercy flows in wave after wave
on those who are in awe before him.
God bared an arm and showed God's strength,
scattered the bluffing braggarts.
God knocked tyrants off their high horses,
pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
the callous rich were left out in the cold.
God embraced the chosen child, Israel;
God remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.

Shortly afterwards, John the Baptist was born and his father also echoed Isaiah, reminding everyone that God was with the poor and oppressed...

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
God came and set his people free.
God set the power of salvation in the center of our lives,
and in the very house of David God's servant,
Just as God promised long ago
through the preaching of God's holy prophets:
Deliverance from our enemies
and every hateful hand;
Mercy to our ancestors,
as God remembers to do what God promised to do

And John grew up, going on to be a wild-eyed preacher in the desert, calling Israel to repentence, preparing the way for the promised one. Luke describes it this way...

The crowd asked him, "Then what are we supposed to do?"

"If you have two coats, give one away," he said. "Do the same with your food."

Tax men also came to be baptized and said, "Teacher, what should we do?"

He told them, "No more extortion—collect only what is required by law."

Soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"

He told them, "No shakedowns, no blackmail—and be content with your rations."

The interest of the people by now was building. They were all beginning to wonder, "Could this John be the Messiah?"

But John intervened: "I'm baptizing you here in the river. The main character in this drama, to whom I'm a mere stagehand, will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He's going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."

There was a lot more of this—words that gave strength to the people, words that put heart in them. The Message! But Herod, the ruler, stung by John's rebuke in the matter of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, capped his long string of evil deeds with this outrage: He put John in jail.

Then, finally, Jesus began his preaching, once again echoing Isaiah (literally quoting him, this time), saying...

God's Spirit is on me;
God's chosen me to preach the Message of good news to
the poor,
Sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and
recovery of sight to the blind,
To set the burdened and battered free,
to announce, "This is God's year to act!"

As we reflect upon this season, upon all that led up to Jesus' birth and the way that God has come to live amongst us, let us give thanks that God IS with us in very real and tangible ways and let us live our lives by God's grace in the steps of the one who came preaching good news to the poor and the day of liberation and salvation.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone.

And on earth, peace, good will to us all.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Donna and Dan - 22

1993 Donna Dan Jordan
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
The winds were blowing the snow straight on towards the freezing VW microvan, swirling in a hypnotically straight line towards my windshield. Driving became nearly impossible, I could barely fight the urge to curl up in a blanket and go to sleep. I would stop every few miles or so, jump out, run around the van, splash some icy snow on my face to try to wake up, then get back in the van and try driving a bit further down the road.

I wanted so much to see Donna, but was it even going to be possible??

While my first college career began and ended before that first semester at Murray was over, the Dan and Donna love story did not. After spending much of our free time together that first semester, taking walks, talking about God and the Bible (yeah, we were Baptist geeks) and Contemporary Christian Music (yeah, we were CCM geeks, too), talking about Donna's classes and our plans, it came time for me to leave Murray, knowing I wasn't returning.

Knowing it would mean a huge physical separation for our newfound love.

Murray State University and Donna's home are both nearly five hours away from my Louisville home. And here I was, going back to my parents' home as a college drop-out and no job. My only plan was to look for work and to start a CCM band (oh, boy!) in the meantime.

But we made phone calls. We made plans to visit and, when that first Christmas rolled around, my parents graciously (foolishly?) allowed this 18-year-old manchild to borrow their old VW microvan and make that five hour trek to the dark corners of far western Kentucky to visit Donna at her parents' home for the very first time.

The problem was that their VW had no heat.

At all.

In fact, even with the vents off, cold air blew in.

And the weekend I planned my trip was a bitter cold one. And a snow storm was a-brewing.

Nonetheless, I dressed in layers, grabbed a blanket to drape across my lap and put on my gloves and ventured out into the cold, to make the long frigid trip across the barren grounds of a snowy western Kentucky.

The first fifty miles or so, I still pulsed with enthusiasm and energy, but the snow was picking up and I still had to drive the endless empty stretch of the Western Kentucky Parkway. Being winter, night fell early and the cold winds blew straight through the VW windshield, icing it over. I had to continually use the ice scraper on both the outside AND inside of the windshield.

I reached Beaver Dam, the halfway point, an hour behind schedule and freezing and tired. I warmed up with some hot chocolate at the rest stop and, with my strength renewed a bit, headed back out to make the second half of this Arctic trek. Hoping I'd make it alive.

On and on I trudged. Stopping occasionally to try to warm up and wake up (to no avail), scraping the windshield and moving on again. Having nearly reached the end of the WK Parkway, I was about defeated. It was getting very late and I was worn out.

I stopped at the Eddyville Penitentiary exit, found a payphone at a dark lonely gas station and called Donna.

"I d-d-don't think I can m-m-make it, sweetie. M-M-Maybe they'll put me up for the night at Eddyville?"

"But you're nearly here," she lied. "You can make it, can't you? Please??"

And so, I re-wrapped myself in my insufficient cocoon of shirts, jackets and blankets, pulled my thin gloves over my trembling fingers and restarted that cursed VW.

After leaving the main highways, I trudged, trembling and trepid, down the one lane roads towards my final destination. What seemed like hours passed, snow drifting across the road and entrancing me as it whipped towards the windshield, with me forcing my eyes open in an act of superhuman determination.

When finally, I spotted the house as it was described to me, its lights shining barely through the blizzardy gusts of snow and ice. I pulled into the driveway, praying I had reached the right place.

There she was! Donna came to rescue me, prying me from the frozen VW and helping me get into the doors.

Instead of greeting anyone, I ran straight for the cast iron woodstove in the corner of their living room, holding my frozen hands over it to begin the thawing out process, hoping against hope that no fingers would be lost.

And her parents' first impression of their future son-in-law was the teen-aged college drop-out who had run to a decorative (ie, NO HEAT) woodstove to try to warm himself up after barely being able to drive a few hours through a beautiful winter night.

Bad first impressions aside, they graciously welcomed me into their home and we all warmed to one another in time.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Bible and Economics...

Lorelei Elizabeth
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Part of an on-going series looking at what the Bible has to say about wealth and poverty and how we manage our economic affairs. You can find the entire series over on the left in my links under "The Bible and Economics," or right here.

Today, I'll look at a timely passage, from Luke 1. This contains the song Mary sang after finding out she was to give birth to Jesus.

I'll point out that in this story, God has chosen a poor, humble teen-ager as the vessel in which to bring God's "Good news to the poor," as Jesus himself later declares. I'll also point out that Jesus, the almighty son of an all-powerful God, was born in a stinky barn in the humblest of conditions. I'll also point out that, in Luke 2, Mary and Joseph made a "dove offering," which indicated they were likely poor. According to Wesley's Notes...

"2:24 A pair of turtle doves, or two young pigeons - This offering sufficed for the poor. Lev 12:8."

Upon learning about this Jesus who was soon to be born into dire, scandalous circumstances, Mary sang...

"My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
For God has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is God's name.


God has done mighty deeds with God's arm;
God has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
God has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.

And sent away the rich empty-handed.
God has given help to Israel God's servant,
In remembrance of God's mercy,
As God spoke to our ancestors,
To Abraham and his descendants forever."

Understanding the circumstances in which young Mary found herself - a poor, pregnant out-of-wedlock, teen-aged young Jewish woman, part of an oppressed people in an occupied nation who were not unfamiliar with impositions, hardships, poverty and hunger - perhaps we should not be surprised that she would sing of a Day when ruthless rulers and oppressors would be brought down and the unjust rich sent away empty-handed, the humble exalted and the poor would be "filled with good things."

It is a point well worth remembering this Christmas season.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Donna and Dan - 23

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Continuing the countdown until our twenty-fifth anniversary, in roughly 23 weeks, now.

Her lush fingers roll over mine like
fresh water running over a stream of age-graced stones,
smooth, playful, tender, electric

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Donna and Dan - 24

Donna Dan
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Continuing my 25 week countdown to the anniversary of Dan and Donna...

After meeting Donna at the BSU retreat, I was infatuated. I found out her first name at the retreat, as well as which dorm she was in. I believe I probably stopped in at the BSU a time or two after that at random times to see if I could catch her, but without much luck.

Other than stalking the BSU, I had no way to contact this Cinderella. No internets to search, no facebook contact or cell phone, nothing.

Fate intervened. Or perhaps college.

I saw a note one day on the bulletin board at my dorm.

"Adopt a Little Sister!"

Apparently, Murray State University was in the matchmaking business. They had an "Adopt a Little Sister/Big Brother" (not to be confused with the actual charitable organization...) program to give guys from the men's dorm a way of meeting ladies from the women's dorms. Sweet! It gave me a chance.

I looked up her dorm name and went down the list of names.

"Donna Helton. Freshman. From Arlington, KY."

That had to be her, I hoped against hope.

I signed up and requested "Donna Helton. Freshman. From Arlington, KY." as my little sister.

This gave me access to her phone number and a chance to see if my detective work had paid off.

Now all I had to do was work up the nerve to call her (no mean feat for this shy 18 year old boy).

"Hello? Is this Donna Helton?"


"Hi, my name is Dan Trabue. I THINK we may have met the other night at the BSU retreat... Was that you? I was the guy who made witty banter about the size of your high school..."

Or words to that effect.

It WAS her and she was open to talking to me (that is, she didn't hang up on me rudely).

We met some more and talked some more. I walked her to her class and danced home to my dorm, got some change and went to play Pac-Man until she got out of class, when I'd try to find her "accidentally" and walk her to her next class and begin the cycle again.

Eventually, I asked her out for a date. Or so I thought.

There is some debate on this point, but the first TWO movies we saw were Disney's Lady and the Tramp and the new horror/slasher flick, Halloween (this would be about Halloween time, 1981). Now, my memory says that we saw Lady and the Tramp first and that was our first date. Donna, however, thinks our first trip to the movies was just two friends going to a movie and not an actual date, which did not come until the second movie. Also, we aren't sure which movie was first.

Nonetheless, we were hitting it off and, after walking her home through the cool, dark night after that second movie - holding hands! - and upon reaching her dorm front door, we shyly said our goodbyes and shared a kiss.

Our first, sweet, sweet kiss.

Ahhh, young love...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

On Reading the Bible...

Girl Reading with Joy
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
To give people a rough idea of the prayerful reasoning process I might go through in studying the Bible (keeping in mind that I strive to use scripture to interpret scripture, interpret all passages through the teachings of Jesus, use the clear to interpret the obscure, strive to understand language and context, etc), I offer the following...

1. The Bible says,

"yet [God] will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations." Exodus 34

2. This passage says God will punish even the children, grandchildren and great grandchildren for a man's sin.

3. This would be an example of an unclear or obscure passage. God punishes children for the sins of their parents?? That doesn't make sense, can it possibly mean that literally??

So what do we do? We weigh it against all of scripture and against Jesus' teachings. We strive to understand context. We interpret the unclear through the clear.

4. So, we look further and see that the Bible also says,

"Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity? [as per Exodus 34 -dan]' When the son has practiced justice and righteousness and has observed all My statutes and done them, he shall surely live.

"The person who sins will die. The son will not bear the punishment for the father's iniquity, nor will the father bear the punishment for the son's iniquity..."
Ezekiel 18

5. THIS passage quite clearly says God WILL NOT punish the children for the sins of the father.

6. Now pay close attention: IF we take BOTH of these passages literally, then they contradict one another. That would send a mixed message about God. SOMETIMES God punishes children for their parent's sin. Sometimes God is quite clear that this will NOT happen.

7. Do you think God is of two minds on this notion? More importantly, do we have any reason to believe God does things one way sometimes and the opposite way other times? I don't.

8. What does Jesus have to say about this notion of punishing children for parent's sin?

When Jesus is presented with a blind man, the disciples ask if he was blind for his own sins or for his parent's sins? This seems to be a clear reference to the popular notion then that the sick and disabled were ill because of - as a punishment for - someone's sin. Jesus rejects this notion, saying,

"Neither he nor his parents sinned; it is so that the works of God might be made visible through him." John 9

Jesus is very much about personal responsibility. What YOU DO for the least of these, what YOU DID NOT DO for the least of these. There is nothing in Jesus' teachings (that I can think of) that support the notion that innocent children are punished for their parent's sins.

9. AND SO, we have referenced the obscure passage with other passages throughout the Bible, and through Jesus' specific teaching. Additionally, we can take the obscure/hard to understand passage (the notion of God punishing the innocent for someone else's sin just seems quite contrary to our innate sense of Justice and Righteousness) and look at it through the clear (Ezekiel's "the soul that sinneth shall die..." - which makes logical sense, whereas the Exodus 34 passages don't) and all of that adds up to my conclusion that God does NOT punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty. Ezekiel is quite clear and supported by the rest of the Bible.

10. CONCLUSION: God does NOT punish the innocent for the sins of the guilty. This would be an example of a Big Truth - one of the important conclusions we ought to draw from the Bible and from our own reasoning.

11. So, now what do we do with the passages like Exodus 34 (and there are others) that seem to conflict with Ezekiel and the Big Truth? MUST we reject it as "obviously" wrong and thus suggest that the Bible is unreliable?

I don't think so. We can do many things with such a passage. We can try to reinterpret it, in light of the CLEAR teaching. For instance, the notion of punishing others for the sins of the father COULD just be a figurative way of explaining the ripple effect of sin, the natural consequences of sin. A father who is sinful in that he is abusive towards his children MIGHT have the result of causing emotional problems with his children, which in turn, might cause emotional problems with THEIR children.

This is an EXTREMELY rational explanation of a passage that, taken literally, does not make sense AND conflicts with clear biblical teaching. Now, by taking it in this OTHER way, that does not mean that we are rejecting the Bible, just that we are seeking truth.

12. In fact, we might even say, "well, I don't know WHAT Exodus 34 means, but CLEARLY, it can't mean that God punishes the innocent for the crimes of the guilty. That doesn't make sense, biblically or logically. It must mean something else."

We CAN leave it at that. We don't have to be able to explain everything - including the odd and obscure - in the Bible to understand the clear. The Big Truths in the Bible are abundantly clear, it seems to me.

13. And so, we have established the Biblical "Big Truth" that God does not punish the innocent for the guilty's crimes. And then, we come across a story which does appears to have an example of just that. A story where God commands Israel to destroy a city - and specifically including the children therein - and this story SEEMS to conflict with the Big Truth that we have already established.

Now what? What do we do with such a story?

14. Well, we don't HAVE to do anything with it. We can say, "Well, I don't know what it means, but clearly it can't mean that God punishes the innocent for the crimes of the guilty - that contradicts clear Biblical teaching and obvious logical notions of Goodness and Justice.

15. But we don't have to do that. We can also try to explain it. We can, for instance, recognize THE CONTEXT of the writing - what STYLE it was written in. These stories occur in sections of the Bible that tell historical sorts of stories, BUT it was written in a day when such histories were not written like they are today. Back then - in prehistoric times - stories were often passed on in Legendary, Mythical or Epic storytelling conventions. In these conventions, the details aren't always factual, as they are not the point of the story. OFTEN (always in ancient writings??) histories were told to impress a point(s) upon the listeners.

IF that is what happened here (and it seems a reasonable conclusion since:

A. That's the storytelling style of that time period, and
B. Taking it literally would conflict with clear biblical truth)

Then perhaps the point of the story is NOT to say, "This is what actually factually happened, detail for detail," but rather to refinforce Truths such as "God is with the oppressed," or "God is with God's people when they are faithful to God," or other such truths.

This seems the most logical, likely explanation for biblical stories such as these and a literal interpretation would conflict with clear biblical teaching, so on what basis would we do anything OTHER than assume that they are SOMEHOW figurative (ie, I'm not saying that's the one and only True Way of interpreting that passage, just that it's a logical biblical conclusion - whereas assuming it's literal is neither logical nor biblical)?

THAT would be the process I use for studying such a passage.

So, given how extremely logical and biblical this process seems to me, on what basis would I reject what seems to be the most Godly biblical explanations and assume someone else is right?

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Light For Our Path...

Advent Candles
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
First, let me point to a fine Advent reflection over at the Jeff Street (my church) blog. Our daring youth minister, Roger, wrote and passed on a wonderful start to our Advent season that is worth reading.

Moving on...

I've been in conversations with the usual gang lately (names withheld to protect the guilty), and we were discussing biblical exegesis and why we take some parts of the Bible literally and some parts figuratively. Most on the Right freely admit that they take parts of the Bible figuratively (no one much believes that the earth has four corners or that Jesus really wanted us to poke our eyes out, for instance), so it's not a matter of WHETHER we take the Bible literally or not - none of us do, fully - but WHEN do we take a passage literally and when do we not.

I suggested some fairly standard/orthodox critical biblical reading criteria that I use (judge any one passage based on the whole Bible, judge any passage based on Jesus' specific teachings, interpret the unclear and obscure through the clear, strive to understand context and language, etc). From what I gather from them, their main approach to deciding what is and isn't literal is the "obvious" test - ("It's OBVIOUS that there aren't four corners of the earth, so it must be figurative..."). I pointed out that that is a fairly subjective measure but never got much of a response except what we've come to expect from them (yer an idiot!).

When it came to a specific passage like where God commands Israel to wipe out a city, including its children, I would say to them, "Well, isn't it OBVIOUS that a good and just God would not command the slaughter of children," which was not well received. (No, is the short answer. It is not obvious that God would not command the of children - who says they're "innocent," anyway?)

Anyway, all of that to say that this led me to ask, continually and with never an answer: ON WHAT BASIS? On what basis would we assume that such an outrageous statement about God ought to be taken literally? Just because it is obvious to them? That's not a very authoritative source.

Because it was written in a section that is "obviously" history was their best answer. To which, I responded, yes, OT passages like this ARE telling a history. BUT they are doing so NOT in the manner that we tell history today, but using more mythical, legendary, epic type of storytelling.

This led me to do a bit of research (and I know that this has been done and done better by others, I just couldn't find a source online - please feel free to point to any books or sources for better info) about how history was passed on in the early years of human history. Consider...

A Light For Our Path...

Advent Candles 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
1. I believe most scholars consider "recorded history" as beginning sometime around the 7th century, BCE, not quite 3,000 years ago. Thus, the period prior to the 7th century, BCE, most scholars (again, I believe) refer as "prehistory," or before recorded history.

2. The OT stories occur generally between 6,000 BCE to about 500-ish BCE [source]. The stories of the Return from Exile as told in some of the latter [chronological] stories of the OT would be amongst the last stories told.

3. Thus, MOST of OT history falls into the "prehistory" category - these are stories told before recorded history.

4. The Epic of Gilgamesh would be another example of early "history," as told in the norms of the day...

"Gilgamesh is one of the oldest recorded stories in the world. It tells the story of an ancient King of Uruk, Gilgamesh, who may have actually existed, and whose name is on the Sumerian King List. The story of Gilgamesh, in various Sumerian versions, was originally widely known in the third millennium B.C. After a long history of retellings, this story was recorded, in a standardized Akkadian version, in the seventh century B.C., and stored in the famous library of King Assurbanipal. "


5. These stories were recorded faithfully and carefully.

"There were schools for scribes that taught a set curriculum of texts to copy precisely and in a fixed order. This resulted in lots of copies being made of many stories, with few variations, because accuracy of transcription was highly desired."

[same source]

6. Nonetheless, the stories do not always remain unchanged...

"Without a fixed written text, stories can be told for thousands of years, varying from teller to teller, adapted to this folk and that folk, with the names of kings, places, people added and subtracted to meet the needs and interests of a current audience. The story of Gilgamesh was originally part of such an oral tradition. "It is virtually impossible to determine when the material was first written down, let alone when it originated orally or how long it existed in an oral tradition. Rather it can be assumed, from the materials handed down from succeeding ancient peoples and languages, that it was not composed all of a piece and at one time but was added to gradually and varied by many tellers.""

[same source]

7. From that same source, we see that Gilgamesh was likely a real king and so in some sense, this was a "history." And yet, the story has Gilgamesh seeking immortality, was the son of a goddess and contains a description of a "netherworld" and other conventions of Epic Storytelling (which does not stick strictly to literal facts).

8. In other words, in Gilgamesh, real history and fictional embellishments occur side-by-side, back and forth with no warning as to what was literal and what was fiction. That was not the point of the storytelling. It was a different culture with different norms for passing on history. They weren't WRONG for telling historical tales that weren't wholly factual, it was just the way they did it. For us to suggest ancient cultures which mixed fact and fiction interchangeably were wrong or duplicitous for doing so is cultural elitism.

9. Gilgamesh is not alone in using Epic Storytelling norms for telling history. We have Homer's Iliad, describing the Trojan War, for instance, as well as the Odyssey and Virgil's Aeneid. Ancient histories often included gods and goddesses, real people and fantasy events. Do you have any examples of what we might call "actual" histories (ie, histories told without obvious fictional devices)? I can't think of any, especially anything from the time period 6000 BCE to 1000 BCE - the very period we are talking about.

So, if you can't provide any instances of history being told in wholly factual ways from that time period, if all our earliest examples are more of the Epic Storytelling vein, then that suggests to me that such a storytelling style was the norm of the day. ON WHAT BASIS would we conclude that these OT stories were passed on differently?

If you can provide no examples offering a different , then on what possible basis would we presume that the OT histories are told in a wholly factual manner, contrary to the norms of I believe most ancient storytelling?

It would seem to be cultural hubris to assume that THEY MUST tell history in the same manner that we do. Says who? ON. WHAT. BASIS?

If it's merely your hunch, once again, why should someone believe you? "On What Basis?" is a meaningful question to answer IF one is taking Bible study seriously.

Seems to me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Donna and Dan - 25

Donna and Dan 1
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Six months from today, my wife and I will celebrate our 25th anniversary. In honor of the pending hootenanny-extravaganzapalooza, I thought I would post a memory, story or poem for my beloved Donna once a week(ish) each of the next 25 weeks.

Now, I know what you're saying ("Awwwwwww... how sweet!") and I know what you're thinking ("how boring!"), so I apologize in advance if you're not the sort to wax sentimental. Feel free to skip over them if you are so inclined. Some things you just do for yourself.

Now, set the wayback machine for that day back BEFORE we married, when we first met way back in September of 1981...

Kim Carnes was singing about Bette Davis Eyes, Brother John Lennon was still with us and singing about how it's Just Like Starting Over, while George Harrison sang of All Those Years Ago. REO Speedwagon, Rod Stewart, Air Supply, John COUGAR (not yet "Mellencamp"), ABBA, Bruce Springsteen and the Oakridge Boys (Elvira) were all on the radio. Disco had all but died in our land and few mourned.

Raiders of the Lost Ark, Stripes, American Werewolf in London, History of the World: Part I and The Evil Dead were among the movies playing that year.

Donna was raised in rural Carlisle County just outside of Arlington, KY, population maybe 400? She attended Carlisle County High School and was at the top of her class of about 30.

I was raised in the south end of Louisville, KY, near Churchill Downs and attended urban Manual High School. I was relatively smart but mostly an underachiever. That is to say, I was not at the top of my class of 400. On the other hand, Donna was only about 40th from the BOTTOM of her class and I was way up about 300 from the bottom of my class, so it's all relative.

Donna and I had graduated in May of 1981 from our respective high schools and we both had elected to attend Murray State University in far western Kentucky. We both had grown up in traditional Baptist churches and so, upon arriving at Murray, we did what all good Baptist college kids did: Found the Baptist Student Union.

We were both relatively shy and yet looking to establish new friends and began considering the options at the BSU. They had Thursday night vespers (a prayer service, I think), a choir and other activities and, early on in the school year, they planned an overnight retreat for college students to get to know one another and the BSU. We met at this retreat.

A volleyball game had started and, since I loved volleyball (and since there were several eligible-looking young women playing), I joined in. I noticed this one pretty gal wearing what looked to be her high school t-shirt - it listed the entire graduating class of maybe 30-ish people. Since my class was so huge compared to hers, I suavely chose to make fun of her school.

"THAT'S your WHOLE graduating class??! Our chess team had THAT many people on it!"

Har. Har.

For her part, Donna says that I had caught her eye, too. Must have been my witty banter and mad volleyball skills. She says she was playing her best in order to try to impress me (she says she could tell I had a competitive spirit - not true, says I. She still disagrees...). I thought she played pretty well, for a girl (yeah, I was also much more of a sexist pig back in the day).

Donna is convinced it was her volleyball expertise that won me over and so she has not played volleyball again since that day, for fear of shattering the illusion. Actually, she had me when she smiled at my lame joke.

A friendship had begun...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

2009 Jeff Street Retreat Slideshow

With music provided by the adult choir singing Truly, I Believe, a South African song that Andy introduced to us and which was a big hit.

I believe in Jesus, the Savior of the people, I believe in God, the almighty Lord Creator, I believe, I do believe, truly I believe!


Monday, November 23, 2009

2009 Jeff Street Retreat

We had our annual church retreat this weekend, some more photos, videos and cetera to follow. Here is the youth band leading the church in the traditional hymn, I'll Fly Away. Good times were had by all...

More can be seen and heard at the Jeff Street blog.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Bible and Economics...

Tent Girls
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below.

I began looking at the "wealth" of material (ha!) found in Psalms on this topic back in September, offering findings from the first ten Psalms. Today, I offer some passages from Psalm 11 to Psalm 22...

"Because they rob the weak, and the needy groan, I will now arise," says the LORD; "I will grant safety to whoever longs for it."

~Psalm 12:6

Will these evildoers never learn? They devour my people as they devour bread; they do not call upon the LORD.

They have good reason, then, to fear; God is with the company of the just.

They would crush the hopes of the poor, but the poor have the LORD as their refuge.

~Psalm 14:4-6

LORD, who may abide in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy mountain?

Whoever walks without blame, doing what is right, speaking truth from the heart; Who does not slander a neighbor, does no harm to another, never defames a friend; Who disdains the wicked, but honors those who fear the LORD; Who keeps an oath despite the cost, lends no money at interest, accepts no bribe against the innocent.

Whoever acts like this shall never be shaken.

~Psalm 15:1-5

Many dogs surround me; a pack of evildoers closes in on me. So wasted are my hands and feet that I can count all my bones. They stare at me and gloat; they divide my garments among them; for my clothing they cast lots.

But you, LORD, do not stay far off; my strength, come quickly to help me.

Deliver me from the sword, my forlorn life from the teeth of the dog.

Save me from the lion's mouth, my poor life from the horns of wild bulls.

Then I will proclaim your name to the assembly; in the community I will praise you:

"You who fear the LORD, give praise! All descendants of Jacob, give honor; show reverence, all descendants of Israel!

For God has not spurned or disdained the misery of this poor wretch, Did not turn away from me, but heard me when I cried out.

I will offer praise in the great assembly; my vows I will fulfill before those who fear him.

The poor will eat their fill; those who seek the LORD will offer praise. May your hearts enjoy life forever!"

~Psalm 22:17-27

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

What Can You Tell Me About Healthcare?

Georgia Basham
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Reading in the Rageosphere (ie, the nutty wing of the Paranoia Party), I have read some stuff about the Health Care Package that is being worked on. Things like...

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is prepared to jail any American who does not buy a qualifying health insurance plan if the healthcare bill she sponsored (H.R. 3962, as amended) is passed into law.

On November 6, Congressman Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, released a letter he received from the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) in response to his inquiry as to potential penalties for failing to comply with mandates set forth in the so-called “Affordable Health Care for America Act.”

The information set out in the response should be shocking, but such unconstitutional abuses of power are becoming de rigueur and have almost lost their ability to stupefy. Still, the details are sinister. As the old saying goes, the devil is definitely in them.

In a letter dated November 5, the Joint Committee on Taxation informed Congressman Camp that there is a broad range of civil and criminal penalties applicable to any American who fails to purchase a health insurance policy that passes legislative muster, or as euphemistically styled in the bill itself: “acceptable health insurance coverage.”

As reported by the Congressional Budget Office, the lowest annual cost of an approved family non-group policy would be approximately $15,000. That is to say, currently written in the bill under consideration, if a family’s health insurance plan doesn’t cost at least $15,000 a year, then you are breaking the law and will be held accountable.

Naturally, I assume that they may well not have their details correct. On the other hand, our government IS a fallible entity (being human and all) and a plan to enforce compliance may well be part of the plan. I would find that hard to believe, at least as how it's being described.

I'm not learned enough on this health care package. Can anyone out there provide some actual intel on the topic? While of course believing in the notion that adequate health care is a vital part of society, I am not one who has been convinced that the current plan is a good one. My main argument in favor of it is all the demonization it has received by the Wacky Wing of the Palin Party.

However, the fact that Palin et al are opposed to it is not, in my mind, adequate reason to support it. Anyone care to make their case to me - one way or the other - in small words so I can understand?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Christian Pacifism, etc

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
My friend and fellow church member, Michael, has a VERY interesting, well-written and powerful series going on Christian Pacifism. His latest entry is about the Sermon on the Mount, which can be found here, in two parts...

Part 1

Part 2

There are several more in this series and more to come. It is extremely thoughtful, informative, concise and well worth consideration. Check them out.

Also, sadly, our church lost one of our homeless friends in death last week. Richard, a gentleman who has lived on the streets for years - and who has been undergoing dialysis for the last thirteen years while homeless - passed into our Savior's arms at the early age of 58.

Our church friend, Adam, has written about his time being there during the last days of Richard's life at our church blog, here. It's a very strong and tender testimony and I thank God for Adam and his ministry with us, as well as for the life of Richard and the impact of his life upon ours.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

November Birthdays: Mark Twain

Statue of Liberty
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Mark Twain

A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

Anger is an acid that can do more harm to the vessel in which it is stored than to anything on which it is poured.

It is noble to be good; it is still nobler to teach others to be good -- and less trouble.

His ignorance covered the whole earth like a blanket, and there was hardly a hole in it anywhere.

Who are the oppressors? The few: the king, the capitalist and a handful of other overseers and superintendents. Who are the oppressed? The many: the nations of the earth; the valuable personages; the workers; they that make the bread that the soft-handed and idle eat.

I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Everything has its limit - iron ore cannot be educated into gold.

[on learning to ride a bicycle...]
The bicycle had what is called the "wabbles," and had them very badly. In order to keep my position, a good many things were required of me, and in every instance the thing required was against nature.

Get a bicycle. You will not regret it, if you live.

But it was impossible to save the Great Republic. She was rotten to the heart. Lust of conquest had long ago done its work; trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people's liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake in their own persons. The government was irrevocably in the hands of the prodigiously rich and their hangers-on; the suffrage was become a mere machine, which they used as they chose. There was no principle but commercialism, no patriotism but of the pocket.

Let us live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

And now, I'll link to perhaps my two favorite Mark Twain short stories...

The Carnival of Crime in Connecticut , which include these delightful insults...

My good slave, you are curiously witless--no, I mean characteristically so. In truth, you are always consistent, always yourself, always an ass... I can almost respect a mere ordinary sort of fool; but you pah!


Grandfather's Ram (which I posted here at my blog earlier in the year...) Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

November Birthdays: Sojourner Truth

Fall Fun Night
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Continuing to honor our November-born heroes, today I offer a snippet from Sojourner Truth's famous "Ain't I a Woman?" speech...

Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place!

And ain't I a woman?

Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me!

And ain't I a woman?

I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me!

And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November Birthdays: Dorothy Day

As mentioned yesterday, in November, we remember the birth dates of some of my heroes and folks who I find especially quotable. Today, I'm remembering Dorothy Day...

Dorothy Day

I believe that we must reach our brother, never toning down our fundamental oppositions, but meeting him when he asks to be met, with a reason for the faith that is in us, as well as with a loving sympathy for them as brothers.

I have long since come to believe that people never mean half of what they say, and that it is best to disregard their talk and judge only their actions.

I felt that the Church was the Church of the poor,... but at the same time, I felt that it did not set its face against a social order which made so much charity in the present sense of the word necessary. I felt that charity was a word to choke over. Who wanted charity? And it was not just human pride but a strong sense of man's dignity and worth, and what was due to him in justice, that made me resent, rather than feel proud of so mighty a sum total of Catholic institutions.

Love casts out fear, but we have to get over the fear in order to get close enough to love them.

People say, "What is the sense of our small effort?" They cannot see that we must lay one brick at a time, take one step at a time. A pebble cast into a pond causes ripples that spread in all directions. Each one of our thoughts, words and deeds is like that. No one has a right to sit down and feel hopeless. There’s too much work to do.

Don't call me a saint. I don't want to be dismissed so easily.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Birthday quotes

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Oh, my, what a rich month November is! At least for those of us who love words. At least FOUR of my most quotable people celebrate their birthdays in November. November 4th is the birth date of Will Rogers (1879-1935), American humorist and populist, November 8th is the birth date of Dorothy Day (1897-1980), who started the Catholic Worker Movement, November 26th is the birth date of Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), famed civil rights leader for both women and blacks during our slavery years and November 30th is Mark Twain's (1835-1910) birth date.

As someone who loves quotable people, these people are at the top of my list and I thought I'd honor them with some excerpts.


Ten men in the country could buy the world and ten million can’t buy enough to eat.

We don’t have to worry about anything. No nation in the history of the world was ever sitting as pretty. If we want anything, all we have to do is go and buy it on credit.

This would be a great time in the world for some man to come along that knew something.

We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others.

Mothers are the only race of people that speak the same tongue. A mother in Manchuria could converse with a mother in Nebraska and never miss a word.

I maintain that it should cost as much to get married as it does to get divorced. Make it look like marriage is worth as much as divorce, even if it ain’t. That would also make the preachers financially independent like it has the lawyers.

Why don’t they pass a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as Prohibition did, in five years we will have the smartest people on earth.

The difference between our rich and poor grows greater every year. Our distribution of wealth is getting more uneven all the time. A man can make a million and he is on every page in the morning. But it never tells you who gave up that million he got. You can’t get money without taking it from somebody.

Democrats take the whole thing as a joke. Republicans take it serious but run it like a joke.

A fool and his money are soon elected.

If they are going to argue religion in the church instead of teaching it, no wonder you see more people at a circus that at a church.

Never kick a cow chip on a hot day.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Trabue Boys

Trabue Boys
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
We celebrated my parents' 60th anniversary today and I was with all five of my brothers (no sisters in my family) for the first time in some 35 years! As part of the hootenanny, my brother Dave and I (the two in the middle in this photo) composed a song for Mom and Dad - The Ballad of Bill and Mary, which can be heard on youtube here.

A grand time was had by all. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who took part!

The Ballad of Bill and Mary
Happy 60th Anniversary!
by Dave and Dan Trabue

1. ‘Long about 60 years ago, a story began that just grows and grows
It’s an old love story that you hear every day
Boy meets girl, she’s a tiny little thing, Girl meets boy, he makes her heart sing
And they got married in the usual way

Bill and Mary, such a perfect life
He’s her lovin’ husband, she’s his ever-lovin’ wife…

2. Holding hands and riding bikes, give a little kiss, if they like
It’s an old love story that you hear every day
Then in 1900 and 51, they gave birth to their very first son
He’s a little buckaroo, and they call him “Dave”

3. Thirteen more years and five more boys, each one is a bundle of joy
It’s an old love story that you hear every day
Dennis, Doug, Dwight, Dan and Dale, raised them up right, kept them out of jail
Or at least most of the time, anyway


4. Playing with kids and going to camps, travelin’ all around in that dang microvan
It’s an old love story that you hear every day
Taking pictures and flying planes, raising kids and raising Cain
The good times they are here to stay

5. Take them to church and send them to school,
Take ‘em sledding in the winter when the weather turns cool
It’s an old love story that you hear every day
Doug and Dwight and Dan got lucky, they all ended up in Kentucky
And the rest all moved off, to Californi-ay


6. Now life just keeps getting sweeter all the time
The grandkids called, and they’re all doing fine
It’s an old love story that you hear every day
Their life’s been carrying on forever, and they love growing older together
It’s an old love story, but you don’t hear much about it these days

Bill and Mary, such a perfect life
He’s her lovin’ husband, she’s his ever-lovin’ wife…

Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hallowe'en is coming...

Goth Kid
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Two Sundays ago, after church, I had some alone time and walked home via the Bohemian part of town and, on the way, I decided to stop in one of our urban cemeteries. I had my camera and thought I'd do some bird watching and grave watching. I noticed a few people also in the cemetery (two or three), and so I walked over to an area that was more deserted, so as not to disturb them.

Over near the the old brick wall that lines the cemetery, there are a bunch of trees scattered amongst the graves. In front of me, I noticed someone walking towards the old brick wall. I kept catching snatches of someone maybe 50' in front of me, but they were behind the trees, so I couldn't see clearly. I kept seeing glimpses of black.

Eventually, I saw him, this thin, young man all dressed in black, with wild, inky hair and pale skin. I realized it was a "goth" kid/young man. He didn't look at me, just kept walking straight towards the wall. He wasn't looking around at the cemetery, looking at the graves or anything you might normally do at a cemetery, just walking straight towards the wall. When he reached the wall, he turned to his right and started walking along the wall, back towards the street (although this was back a good ways from the street in a fairly abandoned-feeling part of the graveyard).

I kept sneaking glimpses of him because I didn't want to freak him out or anything/make him think I was watching him. But I WAS watching him because his behavior was so odd, he wasn't looking at the cemetery, but rather walked specifically and directly to the wall, then turned and walked on maybe 30 more feet.

Then, he stopped, bent over, brushed some leaves away and... DUG! into the ground a little bit with his hands. After a few minutes of this digging, he pulled something out of the ground. Something maybe six inches long that fit in his hand, like a cell phone or a knife (by now I was too far away to see clearly). I watched him brush it off a little bit on the stone at the bottom of the brick wall.

I had my camera out already for taking bird photos and so I sneaked a photo of him while he had his back turned to me. I've attached that photo (all right, I did the b/w coloring, and the spooky shadow look, but it's really the photo...).

I wanted to ask him what he was doing, but didn't. Not long after I took the photo, he went beyond the trees you see in the photo and then was gone.

Freaky, yeah? If it had been at dusk, it might have been almost creepy, and it was almost creepy anyway.

What do you think? Some kind of treasure hunt/scavenger hunt game taking place? Some weird drug deal going down? Digging up a cursed Monkey Paw?

My best guess was a scavenger hunt, but what do you think?

As we approach that most "hallowed" time of the year, do have any creepy stories of your own?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Really??? UPDATED

Sparrow on Barbed Wire
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize.


I heard that on the alarm/radio this morning and thought it was just the talk show hosts cracking jokes. Then, I realized they were being serious and my first thought was, "For WHAT?"

As it turns out, Obama has actually won the Nobel Peace prize for being Not-Bush. Or at least that's what it sounds like to me.

Obama won the Prize, according to the committee, for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the committee said. "His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."

The committee also said Obama has "created a new climate in international politics."

What's that mean? What's he done?

It seems like we're being rewarded for merely Not Being Bush. The US, with the election of Obama, has had a turn away from Cowboy Diplomacy to adult diplomacy, and that is something that the Nobel folks must have decided was important enough to encourage.


I'd think it have been better to wait to see if Obama actually took some actions that more directly led to peace (of course, I AM glad that he has changed the tone of diplomacy and foreign affairs, but still...) than just to honor him for being Not Bush.

All the same, it will be amusing to watch the Obama Haters' collective heads exploding today. Might be painful, though, considering how far up their respective rumps most of those heads are...
UPDATE: According to CNN:

Obama was selected not for substantive accomplishments, but for his "vision" and inspiring "hope" at the beginning of his presidency.

"For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman," the committee said, explaining its decision.

In comments at the White House on Friday, Obama said he did not view the award "as a recognition of my own accomplishments. But rather as an affirmation of American leadership. ... I will accept this award as a call to action."

Friday, October 2, 2009

Christian Essentials?

Flying Heron
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I've been watching with some interest over at Stan's place (birdsoftheair.blogspot ). Stan is one of those who have asked me to no longer comment there so I haven't, but he has posted a series in which he goes through what he considers to be Christian essential beliefs.

He begins with the notion that "saved by grace through faith in Jesus" is a line that distinguishes Christianity from other religions. So far, very good. From there, he listed some fairly typical (I guess) notions of Christian doctrines. In his words...

What doctrines did I list as essential? In what I consider a somewhat logical order:

1. The Inerrancy of Scripture
2. The Sinfulness of Man
3. The Atonement
4. The Trinity
5. The Resurrection of Christ

Stan added the caveat...

Now, I, again, need to make it clear. When I say "essential to Christianity", I do not mean that in order to become a Christian you need to believe all these things.

I am not saying that a person who does not have a clear understanding and agreement with, for instance, the mystery of the Trinity cannot be saved. These are not essential for salvation. They are essential for Christianity. They form the primary substance of Christianity. Without them, you have something that is not Christianity.

And I respond by thinking, "hmmm." I'm not sure if I agree. Oh, I believe in most of his essentials - although not the way that Stan wants me to believe (he has decided that I'm not a Christian because I don't believe correctly on some things - that is EVIDENCE of why I'm not a Christian, but it's not what makes me not a Christian, according to Stan). Of course, I don't believe in what he is calling "biblical inerrancy."

I'm no theologian, but I reckon my essentials would look more like this...

UPDATED: Dan's list of Christian essentials IF I WERE TO DO A LIST...

1. The Sin problem of humanity
2. The Love of God for this world and God's desire to save humanity
3. The Grace of God, by which we are saved
4. The Lordship of Jesus
5. The Fellowship/Community of Believers

The advantage to this set of beliefs (as opposed to Stan's) is that they are exceptionally directly biblical. That is, these aren't implied (like he thinks inerrancy is or like we both think the Trinity is, or as his version of Atonement is). My take on them comes pretty directly from Jesus' teachings.

Clearly, we have a sin problem (although Stan and I may look at that differently - more on that in another post). But then, from what I see in the Bible, there is a HUGE emphasis on the love of God for this fallen world. God wishes that we'd ALL be saved, this is what the Bible tells us God wants and this desire springs from God's love for us.

And so we are offered salvation by God's grace. This is what saves us, God's grace through faith in Jesus, as Stan agrees. What I found especially missing in Stan's list (and he apparently thinks it is implied) is any mention of the Lordship of Jesus. That is, we know Jesus' teachings and agree with God that our way is wrong, that Jesus' way is right, we repent of trying to go our sinful way and, by God's grace, live a life walking in the steps of Jesus, our Lord.

Stan may think it's implied, but I think it's important enough to note right up front. After all, someone could believe in Stan's essentials and not be saved at all.

I also think the communion of saints is an important essential, the love of the church for one another and the world.

Again, I'm no theologian, am I off on a wrong trail or does that sound solid? To me, my list is much more "Jesusy" than Stan's. These are teachings that come straight from Jesus the Christ.

Stan's list sounds vaguely more Pauline (well, except for the inerrancy stuff, which Paul doesn't talk about that I see, or the Trinity stuff, but the rest of it...)


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

This Aggression Will Not Stand, Man...

1998 Sarah Dan Jordan
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Gov't nuttiness in the news, along with its self-correction...

IRVING TOWNSHIP, Mich. – Each day before the school bus comes to pick up the neighborhood's children, Lisa Snyder did a favor for three of her fellow moms, welcoming their children into her home for about an hour before they left for school.

Regulators who oversee child care, however, don't see it as charity. Days after the start of the new school year, Snyder received a letter from the Michigan Department of Human Services warning her that if she continued, she'd be violating a law aimed at the operators of unlicensed day care centers...

Snyder's predicament has led to a debate in Michigan about whether a law that says no one may care for unrelated children in their home for more than four weeks each calendar year unless they are licensed day-care providers needs to be changed. It also has irked parents who say they depend on such friendly offers to help them balance work and family...

On Tuesday, agency Director Ismael Ahmed said good neighbors should be allowed to help each other ensure their children are safe. Gov. Jennifer Granholm instructed Ahmed to work with the state Legislature to change the law, he said.


Of course, this is an example of gov't over-reach and I would not be surprised to hear about it on conservative blogs here soon. The thing is, I would imagine nearly everyone agrees that it's too much gov't intervention and it is a result of a well-intentioned but poorly-written law. It sounds that law is even now being rewritten.

That is, the problem has corrected itself. As it should. Our republic has, once again, worked itself out, as it does tend to do, given time. So, no need to start stocking up on more bullets and guns - we're not going commie just yet...

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Problem with Biblical Inerrancy

Dan and Sarah closeup
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
I think one of the problems with biblical inerrancy is the degree to which it has tended to build black and white thinking in some people and, along with that, the almost god-like nature some assign to the Bible.

A recent series of conversations with one of my more conservative brothers resulted in someone making this conclusion, and I quote...

"Without reliable words from God, we are free to make what we want of our religion. I have come to the conclusion that I believe so much in authority and reliability of Scripture, that if I were to learn that it was false, I would cease to be a Christian, and even further, cease to be a moral person because there would be no reason for morality except to get what I would want from others and not have others treat me the way I don't want to be treated."

IF they learned that there were lines in the Bible that they thought were true and factual and it turned out to be false, not only would they lose their faith in God, but they would cease to be a moral person!

Is that not a horribly incredible statement to make? Does that not suggest a deification of the Bible? Oh, to be certain, I don't think this person at all intends to make a god of the Bible, but if he "were to learn that it were false, [he] would cease to be a Christian...," that rather sounds like his faith is in the Bible and not God.

I would suggest that perhaps we could give him the benefit of the doubt and say that he probably means that if he were to learn that ALL of it were false (God created the world = not true, Jesus was NOT a real person, we are NOT to love our enemies, we are NOT to love our families and communities, etc, etc), surely this must be what he means.

And I hope so, for that might be a reasonable position.

But I fear that it may not be so. I fear this because I've met others who've said similar things. I have a dear friend from my childhood who is a devoted and wonderful conservative Christian, and he once told me that if he learned that the Creation story is not fairly literal, he would probably lose his faith. "How could I believe ANY of it is true if the creation story is not literally and factually true?" is a common sentiment I have heard.

I fear that this concrete, black/white, absolutist sort of thinking probably DOES lead people to lose their faith, when it becomes clear at some point for some of them that some of the stories and facts in the Bible probably aren't intended to be literally true.

This would be a shame, I think. We have no real biblical, moral or logical reason to presume inerrancy of the Bible. The Bible does not TELL us to take each story as literally factually true and we can learn from metaphorical stories just as well as we can from factual stories about the nature of God.

You think?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Bible and Economics...

Heron Reflection 2
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Part of an ongoing series looking at all the many passages in the Bible that deal with wealth and poverty issues. You can see the links to the other passages in the series under the heading "The Bible and Economics" below.

Today, I thought I'd begin with the Psalms. This is a little tricky because I believe that much of the prayers for God's help found within the Psalms imply - some more than others - that the oppression they are feeling is due to economic injustice. Psalms like Psalm 17...

My ravenous enemies press upon me; they close their hearts, they fill their mouths with proud roaring.

Their steps even now encircle me; they watch closely, keeping low to the ground,

Like lions eager for prey, like young lions lurking in ambush.

Rise, O LORD, confront and cast them down; rescue me so from the wicked.

Slay them with your sword; with your hand, LORD, slay them; snatch them from the world in their prime. Their bellies are being filled with your friends; their children are satisfied too, for they share what is left with their young.

I am just--let me see your face; when I awake, let me be filled with your presence.

~Psalm 17:10-15

Perhaps I'm wrong, but the whole "bellies are being filled..." sort of language seems to echo other passages that talk about the wealthy unjustly filling their bellies while the poor starve (see Ezekiel 7 and Ezekiel 16, for instance).

That being said, I'll stick primarily with passages that are overtly about poverty or wealth, rather than those which might imply it. From the first ten chapters of Psalms, we find these...

Many say, "May we see better times! LORD, show us the light of your face!" Selah

But you have given my heart more joy than they have when grain and wine abound.

In peace I shall both lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me secure.

~Psalm 4:7-9


It is God who governs the world with justice, who judges the peoples with fairness. The LORD is a stronghold for the oppressed, stronghold in times of trouble.

~Psalm 9:8-9


Why, LORD, do you stand at a distance and pay no heed to these troubled times?

Arrogant scoundrels pursue the poor; they trap them by their cunning schemes.

The wicked even boast of their greed; these robbers curse and scorn the LORD.

In their insolence the wicked boast: "God doesn't care, doesn't even exist."

Yet their affairs always succeed; they ignore your judgment on high; they sneer at all who oppose them.

They say in their hearts, "We will never fall; never will we see misfortune."

Their mouths are full of oaths, violence, and lies; discord and evil are under their tongues.

They wait in ambush near towns; their eyes watch for the helpless. to murder the innocent in secret.

They lurk in ambush like lions in a thicket, hide there to trap the poor, snare them and close the net.

The helpless are crushed, laid low; they fall into the power of the wicked,

Who say in their hearts, "God pays no attention, shows no concern, never bothers to look."

Rise up, LORD God! Raise your arm! Do not forget the poor!

Why should the wicked scorn God, say in their hearts, "God doesn't care"?

But you do see; you do observe this misery and sorrow; you take the matter in hand. To you the helpless can entrust their cause; you are the defender of orphans.

Break the arms of the wicked and depraved; make them account for their crimes; let none of them survive.

The LORD is king forever; the nations have vanished from God's land.

You listen, LORD, to the needs of the poor; you encourage them and hear their prayers.

You win justice for the orphaned and oppressed; no one on earth will cause terror again.

~Psalm 10

Friday, September 18, 2009

Joke of the Day

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Ironic humor is ruling this month.

You all are familiar, I'm sure, with Jimmy Carter's comments about the vitriolic level of dissent in the health care debate (Carter suggested NOT that most Americans were racists, but rather suggested that the level of bile and anger in this "debate" is at least partially due to racism - a point that would be as hard to prove as it would be to disprove, it seems to me, but not entirely without merit).

What you may have missed was that Elliot Abrams last week criticized Carter for some of his recent comments about the Middle East peace process.

The ironic humor in this criticism is that this is the SAME Elliot Abrams who defended so much terrorism in Latin America in the 1980s. Abrams was Reagan's man in El Salvador, suggesting that no terroristic behavior was happening by the US-supported Salvadoran army, when that was simply not the fact.

Later, Abrams played a role in the Iran-Contra scandal, in which the Reagan administration provided support for the Contra terrorists in Nicaragua. Abrams was convicted for a relatively minor charge of lying to Congress and promptly pardoned by Bush I. Later, this SAME Abrams was chosen by Bush II to promote Democracy!

woo hoo, ha, ha, sniff, sniff, bawl...

THIS Abrams now is criticizing Carter, suggesting Carter is siding with the terrorists in Palestine. Well, I guess he would know a bit about siding with terrorists.

[More about Abrams can be found here

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Joke of the Day

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
A former aide to George W Bush (Bush speechwriter, Matt Latimer) has just released a book, which includes this hilarious snippet...

'Bush came in one day to rehearse a speech, fuming. "This is a dangerous world and this cat (Obama) isn't remotely qualified to handle it. This guy has no clue, I promise you".'

That's George W Bush suggesting that Barack Obama has no clue and is not remotely qualified to be president. Isn't that rather like Chuckles the clown questioning Einstein on the intricacies of nuclear physics (or, as Bush would say, "all that nucyular science mumbo jumbo...")

Funny stuff. But doubtlessly true. Who, after all, IS qualified for that kind of job?

On a more enlightening note, you may wish to visit my Jeff Street church blog to see a recent wonderful sermon from my pastor, in which she points out how vital it is to be a part of, and community with, "the least of these." Vital for OUR sake, as much as theirs.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Senor Don Gato

Contemplative Sunshine
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Now, I know that thanks to the wonders of the internets, a fella can find out just about anything at all. But I was wondering if folk around here might assist me, instead.

I found myself this morning singing a snippet of song and my daughter asked about it and when I described it to her, she said she'd never heard of it.

As a child in elementary school, one of the songs we sang was "Senor Don Gato." It was the tragic love story of Senor Don Gato, who was a cat.

The first verse, as I recall it, went...

Oh, Senor Don Gato was a cat
On a high red roof, Don Gato sat
He went there to read a letter, meow meow meow
Where the reading light was better, meow meow meow
It was the end of poor Don Gato...

And that's all I remember of the actual. That, and it was sung in a minor key.

The story line, as I recall it, was that Don Gato went to read the letter and, as it turns out, it was from his lover. It was a Dear Juan letter! He was dumped by his lover and in his heartache or surprise or shock or something, Don Gato falls from the roof to his death on the streets below.

My daughter called that a horrifyingly morbid song for schoolchildren to be singing.

How about it? Was this a song specific to my particular school/area? OR, were schoolchildren across the nation being taught illicit love stories that end in the tragic death of beloved kittens?


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Schoolchildren's Manifesto...

Confused Yewts1
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
[excerpts from Barack "Marx" Obama's diabolical manifesto TO OUR NATION'S CHILDREN!!!]

Now I’ve given a lot of speeches about education. And I’ve talked a lot about responsibility.

I’ve talked about your teachers’ responsibility for inspiring you, and pushing you to learn.

I’ve talked about your parents’ responsibility for making sure you stay on track, and get your homework done, and don’t spend every waking hour in front of the TV or with that Xbox.

I’ve talked a lot about your government’s responsibility for setting high standards, supporting teachers and principals, and turning around schools that aren’t working where students aren’t getting the opportunities they deserve.

But at the end of the day, we can have the most dedicated teachers, the most supportive parents, and the best schools in the world – and none of it will matter unless all of you fulfill your responsibilities. Unless you show up to those schools; pay attention to those teachers; listen to your parents, grandparents and other adults; and put in the hard work it takes to succeed.

And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself.

Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is. That’s the opportunity an education can provide.

I must say, this paranoia trip by some of our dear friends on the enraged right has been a bit of good fun for me. TONS funnier than Two and a Half Men... [a TV "comedy," in case you haven't had the good fortune].

AAAAH! Responsibility! Hard Work! High Standards! AAAHHH! The fiend!!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Barn at the End of Summer

Originally uploaded by paynehollow
Although the grass is green still
and flowers are a-blooming
Something in the air whispers
Cool autumn is now looming...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Considering a Name Change...

Flying Yellow Butterfly
Originally uploaded by paynehollow
After having blogged under the name, "A Payne Hollow Visit," for lo, these nearly five years, now, I am considering a name change.

It has been pointed out to me that I don't really talk about my blog's name's sake (A Payne Hollow Visit) very often. And it's true, I don't. It was never my intent.

I only chose Payne Hollow Visit as a way to honor the Hubbards (Harlan and Anna) who lived a simple life on the river a few miles east of me for the last half of their lives. My intention, when I started, was to speak of simple living ideals, peaceful ideals, practical ideals - ideals that I learned somewhat from the Hubbards in Harlan's books about their lives. So, in honor of those ideals, I had chosen that name.

However, I have tended to spend a good bit of time talking about politics and religion - two topics that the Hubbards were pretty quiet about. And, as a result, I'm not sure if it's helpful to the memory of the Hubbards and the work at the actual Payne Hollow to continue using the name when I'm really not spending as much time talking specifically about their ideals.

So, at least for now, I have renamed myself to Through the Woods, while I consider what path might best fit this blog. For now, the address will remain the same, although that, too might change. I expect the content to remain the same as it has been.

I'd be glad for any thoughtful suggestions and/or comments or name ideas, but there is a good chance they may be ignored... Maybe I'll just rename the blog each week, depending upon my mood?

Stay tuned...