At the Grad Party on the Farm

At the grad party on the farm there was a potato gun. It launched those spuds a football field and a half, and there were some kids who ran out there to see it they could catch them—unsuccessfully, since the gun was very hard to aim, and with ears of corn it was even worse. It was powered by compressed air.

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At the grad party on the farm there was a hammer-n-nail game. Toss the hammer into the air, twirling it once, catch it by the handle, and then drive the nail. Great fun for resident and the far more numerous wannabe farmers.

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Get your school bus ice cream at the grad party on the farm. Order at the driver’s window. Pickup at the rear. The farmer had bought it at auction, thinking it might do for group outings, but then discovered that there was more to putting an old bus on the road than he had anticipated.

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At the grad party on the farm you had to pass a farm quiz in order to eat, identifying various seed types and farm implements. This requirement was relaxed so that visitors would not starve. Acquiescing to reality, this farmer had previously given people stalks of wheat, labeling them “pre-donuts.”

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There was also a great swing that could accommodate up to three people at the grad party on the farm.

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At the grad party on the farm, there was, not one, but two, International Scout convertibles. With a V8 under the hood, it was a vehicle with guts, so said the grad’s brother who took it for a spin—more guts than that brothers own high Jeep, who he first got it, I said: “I’d better not see your tire tracks across my hood!” (or was that his buddy I said that to?)

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There was, at the grad party on the farm, a Burmese Mountain dog that threaded through the gathering crowd, its tail wagging all the while, as though a politician. “Careful—it’s a leaner,” someone said. “Pull back quick, and it will fall over.”

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Probably 150 made the party, and the grad is someone I have known since she was 2. She had strawberry red hair back then. There was to be a bonfire that night, but we left before that happened. It may have been rained out, since it was raining hard when we arrived home.

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Skirmish #100519 - A Typical Tussle Around the Line of Scrimmage

Q: “you [JWI] and TTH have been caught with. Anna's smiley face won't change what is already known by some of us, with your actions.”

A: You haven’t been around long enough to discern how it works here:

CMP takes the snap and hands off to JWI. JWI looks for a receiver. TTH is way way out there, but he usually flubs the catch.  JTR is also wide open, but he generally gets distracted in cursing out the coach. Melinda looks open. So is Aruana. JWI throws, hoping for the best. 

Allen, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask so that you don’t know which one he is, intercepts. He charges headlong and bloodies anyone in his path. He gets ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.

After a few such plays, JWI punts. Wilma takes the catch and insists that she should have had the ball all along. Sometimes agent Jack takes it instead and calls up to a dozen plays at once. Either of them look for receivers. Matthew 457845 is open. So is Shiwiiiiiii. So is Srecki (hehehe). So is JTR, who technically is on the other team, but 85% of the time it is impossible to tell. 

The thrower hesitates. All of these receivers are known to be distracted by Anna’s smiley face, and whenever that happens, they either miss the catch completely or run headlong into the goalposts. Hoping for the best, he or she throws anyway.

Allen, wearing a Guy Fawkes mask so that you don’t know which one he is, intercepts. He charges headlong and bloodies anyone in his path. He gets ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.

After a few rounds of this, the Librarian, that old hen, blows the play dead, and calls for another one. Admin puts his head in his hands and cries. He once supposed that web hosting would be his path to respectability.

Understand now?

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One Infuriating Day in the World of Mundane Technology

The Bluetooth keyboard won’t connect. The printer won’t print. As though in a conspiracy to infuriate me, they both rebel at the same time. So as to thwart them, I will deal with them just one at a time.

The pre-installed batteries that power the keyboard couldn’t possibly be bad. I know this because all the online reviews say that they last four years—essentially, the life of the iPad—and I have only had this thing for 6 months. Besides, when I ask the geek at the store whether it is the batteries, he says “no”—it is the keyboard itself. “You think so?” I ask. “I know so,” he says.

He must know what he is talking about. The online reviews tell me the same—the batteries are supposed to last 4 years, not 6 months. It must be the Slim Folio keyboard. I buy another—the are not too expensive. When I get it home, I discover (so I thought) what was wrong with the first one. There is a Bluetooth key on the upper row. When I hit it, it makes a connection. I didn’t know there was such a key. It must also have been preset. I must have switched it off by mistake.

I take the purchased keyboard back to the Best Buy. Do I have the receipt? No. The clerk with the tattoos hadn’t given me one, and I didn’t say anything because I know that they send receipts by email these days. They searched and couldn’t find it. Why not? Because they had on file the old Juno email account that I haven’t used since Jesus was born, and for whatever reason, can’t get into anymore. I think I changed the once-simple password to something more intricate and then forgot it. As I recall, retrieval proved near impossible due to an archaic interface and a since-replaced laptop that crashed if you looked at it wrong.* At last, the salesperson finds it and the return is made.

Back home, I find that my fix—the Bluetooth key—was just a red herring. Yes, I did get more life out of it for a few minutes, but it presently started to act up as before. It’s going to be embarrassing buying the keyboard again, and I am starting to think that maybe I should try batteries before I spring for a new board after all. They are the little coin-like batteries that I never use, and another reason that I just bought a new keyboard—now returned—is that I figured they probably cost as much as a Prius battery.

Amazon can get me the batteries I need, also the printer ink, but it will take two days. I want them both now. I want the keyboard battery so that I can type on my iPad, not on my laptop as though a caveman. My wife wants the printer to work so that she can print out a letter from an expert saying that another refurbishing job that she paid through the nose for is no good and that she should get her money back.

The Best Buy has those particular coin-type batteries, but only in a package of eight. They are not nearly as pricey as I thought—I found that out via Amazon—but I don’t need a 20 year supply of them. Wasn’t there a Steve Martin movie featuring him being hauled to the police station because, thinking that the world was out to get him, he had torn open either a hot dog package or a hot dog roll package so as to buy only the matching number of each that he wanted? And batteries are more expensive that hot dogs or hot dog rolls!

If Best Buy doesn’t have them, with all of the electronics that they sell, there is no way that Target will have them. But the Target is right next door—it is silly not to at least check. Target does have them, and in just the number (2) that I need. The battery display says $4.60, only a dollar more than Amazon, and I can get them right now, even though I may not need them and have no other use for them should that be the case. The self-service kiosk rings it up for $6.99. I must have picked up the wrong pack, I suppose, and I go fetch another one. No, I did not pick up the wrong pack. It, too, rings up for $6.99. I return to the display. It turns out that the battery is being re-introduced in a new package alongside the old and both are ringing up at the new price that only the new one is supposed to ring up at. I don’t want the new. I want the old, and the old price.

You wouldn’t think that one could get paralyzed over two dollars. But it is not two dollars paralyzing me—it is the thought of being played for a chump. “Forget it!” I mutter after a few trips back and forth to the register kiosk. I can get it through Amazon—why don’t I use them all the time, since aggravations like this so frequently happen?—and in the meantime I can make do with the laptop. I mean, for years and years I typed on the laptop, perfectly content. I can do it again for two days. Upon making this resolution, I leave to pick up some groceries at Aldies. The batteries might not solve the problem anyway—the geek told me they would not solve the problem—so if I am going to chance just throwing money away, it should be as little as possible, not the $6.99 Target wants just because they put them in a fancier package.

After grocery shopping, I return to Target. In the greater overall scheme of life, two dollars is not the end of the world, and it is worth two dollars to use my iPad today and not my laptop because, long ago, I ripped the laptop cord from the laptop one too many times while removing it from my lap, and it will now only stay connected if I firmly tape the cord in place with duct tape. The repair will cost over $200! Forget it. Taping the way I now do is enough to power it, but not enough to keep its battery (another battery!) recharged, so I have acquiesced to the laptop being no more portable than a desktop, because if I even look at the thing wrong, the cord connection breaks even with the duct tape and, having no battery, the machine crashes and I lose anything I have not saved—the only benefit being that I have learned to save after virtually every sentence. So I want to use my iPad, which is portable, and I will pay two extra dollars to do that.

Still, I grumble at the self-service line over the two dollars. “Do you want me to look it up for you?” the attendant who oversees four of these kiosks asks. I tell her no—it is just a price change, that I know this sort of thing happens—it is irritating but it is not her fault—why make trouble for her? Still, she can look it up if she likes, I tell her, mostly just so that she will get out of my hair and let me get on with shelling out the $6.99 that heaven has decreed I must before I change my mind again.

She DOES look it up. She scans my package with her phone. She has software (I think) that permits her to see the display, and she sees the original price. Nah—that can’t be—still, she somehow figures the original price. She changes it for me right there at the kiosk, punching in some codes—using her powers. Finally! A hero in a world of villains! When she is busy doing something else, I double back to tell her that she truly made my day, that she didn’t have to do it at all, that I never expected her to, and that she would never know how much such a gesture of service meant unless I told her, which is why I did.

At home, I put in the new batteries and the old keyboard works good as new. Even though the geek had said he KNEW that batteries were not the problem! Even though the online reviews said it, too, with batteries supposedly lasting the life of the iPad! (To be sure, I use it a lot.)

One problem down—only one more to go: the printer that won’t print. I know it is not out of ink because it has an icon that keeps track of ink, discoverable in several different ways, albeit with effort, and each of those ways returns the same result—there is still 3/8 of a tank left. So I spend three years pouring over online documentation as to how to fix the sullen thing. Cleaning the heads does nothing. The store geek who does not know a dead battery from a keyboard is not going to try his hand at my printer—I refuse to even think of taking it there—even if he will do it for less than a million dollars. As a last ditch attempt before escalation, even though gauges say that there is no way that is it out of ink, I buy some more ink. Of course, I buy the wrong package, a package number that came up when I searched the printer model on Amazon.

Why has not someone taken a stand on the biggest scam of all time—printer ink? Why are there dozens and dozens of printers, each one of which will take only a single specific pricey cartridge out of the dozens and dozens available? It is as though every single can of Campbells soup is unique and you will die if you eat any other than one out of 100. The politician that runs his platform on blowing the lid off this scam wins, as far as I am concerned.

Funny, the printer model itself is not on the cartridge package that Amazon says should work, I note at the Best Buy, though every other model on the planet is. “Ah, well, if it is not the right one, I can always take it back,” I say, and indeed I do take it back the next day. I pop the new cartridge into the machine that insisted it did not need one, and it immediately prints like the New York Times running down Trump.

Total price in money? Twenty six dollars

Total price in time? Twenty six years

Total price in aggravation? Twenty six thousand grey hairs.

Total number of heroes? One—the kiosk monitor at Target.

(Best Buy emerges from this post with a mild black eye, so I should point out that I have nothing against them. Their sales associates are polite, not pushy, and invariably will answer whatever you ask them. The point I am making instead is that tech is complicated and nobody knows everything. It was even a Best Buy sales associate who answered to my satisfaction why Microsoft gives me so much trouble (I have had updates that take hours) whereas Apple does not (I don’t think I have ever had an update lasting more that a minute or three). Microsoft is much more ambitious in the scope of what they offer, she told me, plus they have low price points that Apple does not. That satisfied me. 

It is annoying, though, that when you grouse about Microsoft online, thieves immediately show up insisting that they are them and ask for all sorts of access so that they can help you, and when they follow up with a phone call later, their English is indecipherable. One would think that Microsoft would shut them down, since it tarnishes their reputation. Later, I read that Microsoft did shut them down—it was an operation out of India—but later I saw that they had resurfaced—it is probably next to impossible to eliminate. Some less scrupulous companies have been known to kneecap scoundrels who tarnish their good name, but Microsoft is apparently too ethical to do that.)

—————-

*The old laptop: Modified from my book: “No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash”—the most autobiographical of them all:

 

The stupid thing is always pestering me that is nearly out of disk space. How can that be? It’s new—and I haven’t used it for anything other than writing this book! [Tom Irregardless and Me] The suggested tool to handle the error message launches into a circus into undiscovered galaxies! It’s like that Black Friday netbook I bought last year - another scoundrel! It harangued me forever about loading Windows 10. Finally, I said ‘All right all right’ - load the stupid thing!’ It wheeled and cranked and whirred like Dr. Who’s spaceship, only to declare at last: ‘You don’t have enough disk space!’ and then launched a tool which took me to Alpha Centauri!

***~~~***

“Just puttering along editing my document. Save a tweak and I get the message: ‘A file error has occurred.’ So? There’s no clue what to do about it. Or the consequences. Will a bomb detonate with the next keystroke? Or is just some tiny worthless snippet of software somewhere that feels it has to speak up from time to time so as to justify its existence? Aha! Close the document. Then re-open. I have saved every tweak up to that point, so it shouldn’t be a big deal. But when I reopen it, the changes I have saved have not been saved! No wonder people go mad! Before closing, it says a temporary file will be available! Where? On Jupiter? Open Word from scratch – it’s nowhere to be found! I have to re-treat the whole chapter!

***~~~***

“Okay, it doesn’t exist. That reassuring fix they were cooing about last night? That ‘solve-all’ dialogue box? It doesn’t exist! Or rather, it probably does, but only inside the 3rd module of the 15th lobe of the program designers brain. It’s impossible to find! Sure, I could find it in three days, possibly, but I don’t want to do that! I could have fixed the chapter by now by just writing it again! And I knew that’s what I should have done, I knew it! But, noooo – here’s some fine instructions – let’s follow them! See where it gets me!

***~~~***

“I have one book to write on my new laptop. Just one book! So I didn’t buy the $14,000 model. I bought the basic model, the cheap one. I’m not gaming with it. I’m not putting movies on it, or music, or photos, or even tweets! Just one book! One! And that’s not even on the hard drive, it’s in the cloud, and on thumb drive updates every two seconds, because you can’t trust this ‘Save’ feature as far as you can Spit! So why does it tell me every two seconds my hard drive is getting full? It just wants to make me mad! It didn’t say ‘Sucker Model’ at the store. It didn’t say ‘Gotcha’ Model. I asked the clerk if there were electronics inside the case, and he said there were! ‘Are you sure it’s not just gerbil cage shavings inside?’ I asked. He said he was sure! What a liar!”

 

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At the Toledo Zoo

We told the border officer at the Ambassador Bridge, en route from Windsor to Detroit, that we had planned to go to the Detroit zoo, but we might go to the Toledo one instead because we had heard that it was better. He agreed that it was. He thought that because he was a member himself. The Detroit zoo was okay, he said, but it meant a lot of walking to see not that many animals.

These are not guys that are known for chit-chat. Upon being waved through, we headed straight for Toledo, though the bridge itself empties directly into Detroit.

The hour drive down, along I-75, was not pretty. I thought of some Vietnamese friends, who had yet to master the language, describing a certain picnic at which they had all sat on the ground, as “not beautiful.” This drive was also not beautiful. Detroit went bankrupt in 2013, long-ago dethroned as Emerald City of the automobile. It is a pretty gritty place today, though the downtown itself is vibrant and we will return someday to explore more thoroughly. I-75 itself was under heavy construction. A billboard whizzed by for the Detroit Pistons; only then did it occur to me: Of course! Pistons—what else would you name the team from the motor city?

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You can see Detroit from the Windsor shoreline, a narrow strip of park. It is very pretty and the GM building dominates. Peter Lynch once wrote that the nicest thing that he could say of General Motors was that it was a terrible company—bloated and inefficient, but that was long ago. No doubt it is firing on all cylinders now. Do not say that these stone figures became such when they fled the sinking town and disobediently looked back, as though fleeing Sodom. It is a cheap shot. Don’t go there. No. This is a statue of Canadian people doing something else.

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We had spent the night in Windsor because, from upstate New York heading to Detroit, you are better served crossing into Canada and traveling “atop” Lake Erie.

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Phone service dies, because we don’t have Verizon, and you have to drive those things they have there instead of miles, but the trip is shorter. We stayed at a Best Western—it was once called the Waterfront Hotel. The next morning in the elevator someone commented on how Justin Trudeau had also spent the night there.

Could it be? The Chrysler Theater was right next door—there is even a connecting passageway—and there had been a long line wrapping around the night before. I had gone out to investigate, but I assumed it was for a music concert, as the marquis suggested. Quite a few cops were there, too, but not that many—I mean, Trump would have shut down half the city. A protester there had been shouting that Trudeau was a racist, and though it made no sense then, afterwards I found out that some college photos of him in blackface (“face-darkening make-up,” a friendly news source said) had been discovered and published by those who didn’t like him. It occurred to me that protests are pretty much the same everywhere—just plug in a fresh set of faces and you are good to go in any land.

It turned out that he had not stayed overnight. That was just rumor encouraged by the guest having seen a SWAT team. He had just been there to give a campaign speech—he was in and out. Moreover, the relatively small police presence occasioned remarks afterwards of how nice they are in Canada, how just a few cops will do for a visit from the Chief of State—you really don’t need too many—and how even the terrorists, should they feel obliged to shoot up the place, are invariably polite and apologize for the inconvenience.

My wife and I were on the final leg of our Zoo tour. We had signed up as members to the Cincinnati zoo last year so as to get in at half price; the clincher had been when they told us that we could then get into other zoos at half price. We had planned to see about 20, but life gets in the way, and we only made four: Syracuse, Buffalo, Hershey, and now, Toledo. Even Rochester, closest to where we live, we did not get to.

We did not even need our membership at the Toledo Zoo—it was senior day—“Senior Safari”—and oldsters that we are beginning to resemble were admitted free! They were trucking them in, hauling them around in golf carts, and lining them up for vendors and agencies who would pitch services to them.

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It was all sponsored by the Office for the Aging. The old people didn’t look too healthy, many of them—old age is not kind—and one of them (who did look healthy) keeled over right behind us in line for no reason at all. He suffered no injuries, fortunately, except for pride. It was a splendid day weather-wise—sun, mid-seventies, with low humidity.

They offered seniors a special deal for lunch, just five dollars per head, so of course, my wife and I signed up. I absolutely refuse to wear the “Where’s My Senior Discount?” tee shirt that some nutty friend gave me a while back, but when a bargain falls right into your lap, of course you take it. So did hundreds of others—when I saw how long the line was, I began to regret it. But it moved quickly, and once inside, we were seated at round tables of ten—with tableclothes—and waiters placed identical meals of a hamburger and a few tiny side dishes before each old person.

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And then, lo and behold, the master of ceremonies, standing before the aquarium, introduced the Contours, that Mo-Town band of the 60s! I had seen them entering from the other side of the building and had not known who they were. There may have been close to 1,000 in attendance to hear these guys. Who would have thought it? See them here on-screen, but also in person away to the left in the connecting room. They only sang four or five songs. The topper was: “Do You Love Me?”—a 1962 hit that became a hit all over again from the 1988 movie “Dirty Dancing.”

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They are still the showmen they once were. One of them exclaimed: “There’s a lot of good-looking women here!” What was he smoking? Even local realtor Sam Morreale, extrovert like you’ve never seen an extrovert, who thrives on people-contact and has done several deals for family members—I would recommend him in a heartbeat—told me that he doesn’t go to class reunions anymore because “the women don’t look so good” (as though the men do). There may have been a few good-looking women there in Toledo, but it WAS senior day, after all. One band member introduced another—I wish I could remember the names—and observed that even after all these years—even with his store-bought teeth—even with his store-bought teeth, that he got from K-Mart, he can still “really shake ‘em down.”

I love the scene from “Dreamgirls,” code name for the Supremes, where Eddie Murphy croons some song nice and bland, so as to appeal to the white people, and breaks down mid-song. “I can’t do it,” he cries. He then lets out a shriek and launches into pure funk, at which point the all-black horn section exits the bleachers and parades single file past him, joyously blowing for all they are worth. Let’s face it—modern music doesn’t really get interesting until the black musicians get their hands on it.

The Toledo zoo is rated by the Ranker.com site as the seventh best zoo in the country. Is it just a coincidence that the #2 (Columbus) and # 3 (Cincinnati) zoos are also in Ohio? As good zoos do, it intertwines people pathways with animal quarters. The former get many viewing angles—see how you can look through this aquarium and see folks on the other side?

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The animals have varied terrain and relatively spacious quarters. Probably not as spacious as Detroit, which is still in the first half of the Ranker list—after all, if you have to walk a lot to see not that many animals, it means that the animals have more space. The American Zoo Association mandates 5000 square feet for every two wild animals. When I was a boy, zoos used to be jails for animals—they have come a long way. Still, that is hardly the space that they would have in the wild, and my brother (the one who cheats at Scrabble) doesn’t like zoos for that reason. They represent one segment of humanity protecting animals from another segment that would kill them off in one way or another. I don’t know how the animals might feel about that.

Toledo used to be one of those jails for animals—most zoos were. The former gorilla enclosure literally looks like a jail, but it is now a restaurant where people come to dine behind the bars. It opened in 1993–it is called “Carnivore Cafe.” As I panned my camera, so as not to be obvious that I was honing in on a couple of diners, the woman wasn’t fooled a bit, and she began waving even before I pointed toward her—how can people be so clever? Later, when I sat back there myself, my wife exclaimed that they still do have great apes back there—see what I have to put up with?

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These days the gorillas get some revenge for their forebears being jailed. They can soak visitors if the latter happen to be standing in the wrong spot and the former are quick enough.

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And the translucent mannequin simulating how the body reacts to venoms and stings, who in this case represents just an ordinary joe cleaning his house gutters, dies after disturbing a nest of wasps! I mean, they went out of their way to have him die—ordinarily he wouldn’t have, but this fellow had a specific allergy.

The New York zoos that we went to—Syracuse, Buffalo—and we know Rochester from before—are all down near the bottom of the Ranker list. They are well done—almost all zoos are improving—and reflect people dedicated to their care, but they are smaller. Even ZooAmerica in Hershey, Pennsylvania—with a name like that we figured it must be spectacular, but it actually meant that it contained, as a refuge zoo, only animals native to North or South America—one would never describe as “bad.” Sometimes less is more, and having defined their more modest goal, they go on to do more with it.

Most zoos undertake the mission to educate as to how to be better stewards of the planet. The aquarium building had photos—they are spotted only as you are close to the exit—of just how damaging human pollution is to marine life. Some birds will feed on small discarded plastic items, filling their stomachs and causing starvation when real food no longer fits, one sign informed. And the next one of the turtles speaks for itself:

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Another exhibit of the Cassowary bird even illustrated a Bible verse for me. The creature defecates thousands of seeds that sprout and serve to repopulate the rain forest in which it resides. That called to mind the derisive title given the apostle Paul by the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, who wanted to know “what is it this chatterer is trying to say?” (Acts 17:18) Literally the word means “seed-picker” and it denotes a bird that picks up a seed here and poops it out there—it is not as though they held him in high esteem

Just as some other creature did something so amazing that I was overwhelmed with appreciation for God’s design, some evolutionist behind me exclaimed: “It seems almost a miracle that natural selection has resulted in these ingenious behaviors!” So I spun about and threw him into the lions den behind me, where he was instantly devoured, as the three Hebrew lads had not been. Look—I gave him a chance to prove survival of the fittest—don’t judge me. I admit that it was an overreaction, but I was tired of his type carrying on about how the Chinese steal intellectual property, whereas nobody steals intellectual property today more than scientists themselves. The way jet wings tip up at the extremities, the way they never used to? That comes from watching buzzards, eagles, and storks. It wasn’t the brainchild of any human, but of God. Fortunately for them, it was not patented, and God doesn’t begrudge them for copying it. But they have no right to pass it off as their own brilliant idea and not give credit where credit is due.

 

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There Goes My Study With Santa Claus

“Oh yes, the notorious beard issue!” says a correspondent.

All that I will say on this is that the last meeting was enough to end my study with Santa Claus. He had been making such good progress. I had finally gotten him to stop disrupting meetings with a “HO HO HO!” whenever the speaker made even the lamest of jokes. He had stopped pronouncing the elders “bad” when they asked him and me to take his outbursts to the back room. He had even said he was giving up the extreme sports stunt he pulls every late December, out of regard for appreciating the gift of life.

It wasn’t the full beard the fellow had at the beginning that stumbled him. Nor was it the shaven-off beard that he had at baptism. It was the half-beard that he had at his study, thus indicating progress.

Sigh...and he was a good study. His wife always served the most delicious cookies.

 

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Thoughts Gleaned from the Midweek Meeting of September 23-29, 2019

One young woman at the congregation meeting last night identified with the “missing drachma” parable of Jesus, saying: “When I put my hand in my back pocket and find some money there....Whoa! it is a big deal!” (“Betty Davis style” is how Bob Dylan said it.) I must admit that it inspired me to do the same, slipping a dollar into my back pocket, pulling it out and exclaiming: “Whoa! Look at this!”

It was this illustration at Luke 15 that got her going: “What woman who has ten drachma coins, if she loses one of the drachmas, does not light a lamp and sweep her house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the drachma coin that I had lost.’”

There is a not-so-hidden rebuke in Jesus’ words summarizing a similar parable: “I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 righteous ones who have no need of repentance.”​ Well, they did—have need of repentance that is. Otherwise they would have been out searching for the missing sheep themselves:

“What man among you with 100 sheep, on losing one of them, will not leave the 99 behind in the wilderness and go after the lost one until he finds it? And when he has found it, he puts it on his shoulders and rejoices. And when he gets home, he calls his friends and his neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’”​

The context was that of the Pharisees sneering at the common people that they should have been tending to, even employing the pejorative term “amhaarets”—“people of the dirt.” Straying a little off-topic, but still fair game, the conductor of that Bible-study portion explored how you wouldn’t want to come across that way in your own ministry:

Bible principles are good and with them people mess up their lives much less than they would otherwise. Sometimes it works at the other end, and they succeed much more than they would otherwise. It depends upon one’s starting point. At any rate, come across someone in the ministry with a host of problems, and realize it could well be you in the absence of Bible principles—I mean, it is no basis for ever feeling superior, as those Pharisees did without even mastering the godly ways.

Again, not part of this particular study, but certainly in the same vein, was Jesus’ rebuke to those same religious leaders on another occasion: “But when the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they began saying to his disciples: “Does he eat with tax collectors* and sinners?”  On hearing this, Jesus said to them: “Those who are strong do not need a physician, but those who are ill do. I came to call, not righteous people, but sinners.”

Sometimes those who dislike Jehovah’s Witnesses try to paint it that they have a higher proportion of ones mentally ill. I have no idea whether this is true or not, for mental illness defines the times that we live in, but I don’t even kick back at this anymore. Instead, I say that, if true, it is exactly what one would expect. I quote Jesus’ words that he came to call, not on those who do not need a physician, but on those who do. “Spiritually sick” is what he is talking about, but if spiritually sick, then maybe emotionally or mentally sick as well—sickness tends to overflow its banks. The people you have to wonder about, in my view, are not those who experience emotional difficulties in the face of the present world, but those who do not—those who sail past atrocities on every side and remain undisturbed.

The two Bible chapters up for review in that mid-week meeting were Hebrews 12 and 13. Discipline was a theme, in view of 12:7. “You need to endure as part of your discipline,” the verse says. There was a video of a circuit overseer taking counsel from his wife as discipline. He was upset over someone he thought had treated him badly, and his wife said: “Well, that’s because he is a yo-yo. But so are you. Get over it.” [precise words mine, not hers] He told of how he had received a letter from the branch telling how he had botched something or other, and he counted that, too, as discipline. Sometimes we get counseled over various things.

Still, the overall sense of Hebrews 12:7 is that even if no one ever says a word to you about anything, simply to pursue the Christian course in a world that either wants to change that course or have nothing to do with it is a “discipline.” The lives of Jehovah’s Witnesses might be described as ones of delayed gratification; they go light or even abstain from certain aspects of life that they would otherwise engage in for the sake of laying hold to a greater prize. That takes self-discipline. Delayed gratification is usually seen as a responsible thing, even by Witness opposers, just not in this case.

That just pursuing the Christian course in the face of an indifferent or even hostile world is in itself a form of discipline is plain from surrounding verses, as well as the overall context of the Book of Hebrews itself. Those members of the Jerusalem congregation were tiring of holding the line. They “ought to be teachers in view of the time but they again need someone to teach [them] from the beginning the elementary things.” (5:12) Hopefully, they would be encouraged by the “great cloud of witnesses” surrounding them—not to mention Christ’s own example, so as to “not get tired and give up.” (12:1-3)

“In your struggle against that sin, you have never yet resisted to the point of having your blood shed.  And you have entirely forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not belittle the discipline from Jehovah, nor give up when you are corrected by him;  for those whom Jehovah loves he disciplines, in fact, he scourges everyone whom he receives as a son.” You need to endure as part of your discipline. God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?  But if you have not all shared in receiving this discipline, you are really illegitimate children, and not sons. Furthermore, our human fathers used to discipline us, and we gave them respect. Should we not more readily submit ourselves to the Father of our spiritual life and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time according to what seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit so that we may partake of his holiness.  True, no discipline seems for the present to be joyous, but it is painful; yet afterward, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen the hands that hang down and the feeble knees.” (12:4-12)

Don’t be a lout and don’t miss the point of God’s undeserved kindness [“grace,” many transactions say, but the New World Translation says “undeserved kindness,” since the former term just conveys to the modern man that God is not clumsy and doesn’t topple over things]: “Carefully watch that no one fails to obtain the undeserved kindness of God, so that no poisonous root springs up to cause trouble and many are defiled by it; and watch that among you there is no one who is sexually immoral nor anyone who does not appreciate sacred things, like Eʹsau, who gave up his rights as firstborn in exchange for one meal. (12:15-16)

He is shaking the very heaven and the earth. He is not shaking the congregation directly, but it is sure to feel the aftershocks—hence the heightened need for the discipline of endurance: “Now the expression “yet once more” indicates the removal of the things that are shaken, things that have been made, in order that the things not shaken may remain.  Therefore, seeing that we are to receive a Kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us continue to receive undeserved kindness, through which we may acceptably offer God sacred service with godly fear and awe.  (12:27-28)

(thoughts gleaned from the midweek meeting of September 23-29, 2019)

*Tax collectors were the lowest of the low in popular esteem back then because they were not unknown to shake people down for, not just the required tax, but whatever they could get in addition.

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“YOU read it and decide if it was a "quid pro quo" conversation, worthy of bringing down a U.S. President.

It is a reference to the transcript of a call from the U.S. president to the Ukrainian president. It dominates the news on this 26th day of September, 2019. It contains the raw material that may lead to impeachment—such is the talk of the day.

“YOU read it and decide if it was a "quid pro quo" conversation, worthy of bringing down a U.S. President,” comes the challenge from someone (not me) with an opinion. 

Some do. Some don’t.

I think the key point to take away from this is that, not only can people not agree on what to do in light of the facts, but they cannot even agree on what the facts are.

Pew Research puts it this way: 

“Nearly eight-in-ten Americans say that when it comes to important issues facing the country, most Republican and Democratic voters not only disagree over plans and policies, but also cannot agree on basic facts.

The Bible puts it this way:

But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal,  having no natural affection, not open to any agreement,slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness,  betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God,  having an appearance of godliness but provingfalse to its power. (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

The same circumstance of being at loggerheads over basic reality is seen in any number of  areas today—in what is science and what is not, and how much it should be relied upon, for example. It is seen in disputes over the basic mores of human nature—of what makes people tick—is another example. It argues poorly for those who think humans are going to ultimately triumph with their “critical thinking.” They can’t even agree on what reality is.

However, we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the power beyond what is normal may be God’s and not from us,” says 2 Corinthians 4:7.

The “treasure” is the Christian ministry, irrelevant for this discussion. But the “earthen vessels” are us, so that the “earthen” quality that would sabotage the ministry were it not for reliance upon God also sabotages human ability to solve and even to properly assess problems. 

This is so even when we are at our sharpest, and yet we are seldom at our sharpest. Generally we are distracted with 100 distractions—some having to do with responsibilities of life and some having to do with where we go when we are not grappling with the responsibilities of life. Few on break use their mental powers to evaluate the problems of the day. They watch TV instead. During commercials, they find something on Twitter that agrees with what the already think and they retweet it.

There is nothing easier than to mislead “earthen vessels.” There is nothing more foolish than the “earthen vessels” thinking that they can overcome their “earthenness” or triumph irrespective of God.

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Putin to Restore Religious Freedom to Russian Jehovah’s Witnesses Before the End of 2020?

It was said on another forum—and was to be on the basis of pure political expediency. Could it be?

Two recent developments have occasioned specific rebukes from the U.S. State Department. 

1) the sentencing of 6 Witnesses to jail terms of 2-3 years.

2) the torture of at least 7 in Surgut, which Russian authorities at first denied but ultimately said proved necessary because the Witnesses resisted with martial arts techniques.

Of course, every other faith is kept track of as well—it is not just Jehovah’s Witnesses. Still, a State Department release of last year specifically mentioned just two groups. 1) Muslims, and  2) Jehovah’s Witnesses. The rest were all lumped into a single third category: 3) Others.

Of course, Trump might always consult with his son-in-law who can recall to him his dealings with the Witnesses from whom he purchased Bethel buildings—that they were people with whom “a handshake deal meant something.” He lavished praise on them in that video that JW.org took down as the Presidential campaign got underway, presumably so that no one would not attempt to portray Witnesses as part of Trump’s election machine—they are serious about neutrality over there.

The (relatively) optimistic prediction may well be right, but I am not holding my breath. The two Presidents did want to get along, but I am not sure that the moment has not passed. Any overtures between them have been soundly scuttled by the American media. It is even as though when the kings of the north and south indicate that they would like to agree, outside forces intervene to make sure that they cannot, as though to to enforce the current understanding of Daniel’s prophesy that the two will hate each other’s guts right down to the end.

It is also possible that Trump senses in his meeting on religious freedom an opportunity to defuse accusations that he is anti-Muslim. It is Muslims who are under attack today, probably more so than Christian groups, and probably spurred on by the perception of how readily a certain strain of that belief goes on to embrace violence. Who can say what Trump is up to? To say he is a bull in a china shop, one must accept the premise that the status quo among world and national leaders is a “china shop.” But he might well be likened to a junkyard dog in a junkyard. Who can say where he goes next?

At any rate, he sidesteps an agenda of climate change policy and hosts his own religious freedom meeting instead. Religious freedom is embedded in the U.S. Constitution, primarily the Bill of Rights. Climate change is not, and Trump plainly doesn’t trust it, viewing it as a mostly concocted wedge to drive socialism more firmly into the world fabric. Instead, he goes to country after country, as though Capitalist-Man wearing a cape, to cut deals. He reverses decades of policy that holds that making disadvantageous deals trade-wise will trigger political change, as newly monied populaces rise to overthrow the tyrannical governments that rule them, like a worldwide “Arab spring.” There is not much evidence that it works that way. It certainly didn’t with the Arab spring, and China is doubling down on its willingness to oppress, even in the face of material prosperity.

So will the (relatively) optimistic prophesy come true, that Putin will reverse JW persecution by year’s end? He points out that: “Neither care about Jehovah's Witnesses, specifically, but they both care about political optics, and pragmatically, about fairness.”

I agree that they are both pragmatic. But Trump is firmly resisted. And Putin may be as well. The New York Times speculated that he may not be so firmly in control as is assumed, partly because after he says: Why are we persecuting  Jehovah’s Witnesses? This must be looked into! the persecution does nothing but intensify. Even as the JW ban was under consideration, one pundit asked: Why would they do it? There was no question that they could, but why would they? They do nothing but make themselves ludicrous and thug-like on the world stage. But it has been “pedal to the medal” since. The succeeding act was to rule the New World Translation as extremist—not a Bible at all—and thus paint themselves before all as breathtakingly ignorant, since anyone with even a modicum of scholarship knows that it is.

The anti-religion campaign has only intensified. Deprived of the New World Translation, Jehovah’s Witnesses there resort to any translation. So courts have found that some verses even there are actually “extremist,” as happened with Psalm 37:29. In doing so they have bought into the thinking of the BITE model promoted by “anti-cultists” in the West. Such has become the wisdom that carries the day in Russia, however stretched the idea might be. It’s founder, Stephen Hassan, has just written a book about Trump: “The Cult of Trump—a Leading Cult Expert Explains How the President Uses Mind Control.”

When you think that half the country has fallen under cult influence, it is evidence, in my view, that you have drunk too much of the Kool-Aid yourself. It is also evidence that the entire BITE anti-cult movement is little more than a political movement. It is little more than a tool of the left. It is the new culture of victimization elevated to sainthood. Now, Mr. Hassan is a former “Moonie”—a group that is commonly regarded as a cult in both the new and the old sense of the word. Whether it is or not is for other people to judge. One way to apprise his present work is to judge it an effort to atone for his prior work—not just to atone, but to save face. “How could he have been stupid enough to join the Moonies?” is a question that many will ask. Of course, few are wont to admit that they could be stupid—hence the emotional appeal of a mindset that holds that even brilliant people can be misled by “cult” techniques—we are all that vulnerable. Having established the concept, it is then extended to the point at which half the country is deluded.

Experience is counted as a plus in some areas and roundly derided as making for bias in others. If I write a book about the persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia (which I have), the fact that I am a Witness makes me incapable of accurately relating events in the eyes of many. But it doesn’t happen with him. He is hoisted upon the shoulders of others and paraded around because his thinking better accords with the irreligious humanistic thinking of the day.

At any rate, this anti-cult advocacy has been allowed to define Russia’s response to any religion not on the “approved list”—which in the Christian category, there is only one: the Russian Orthodox Church. One would think that the idiocy of declaring Jehovah’s Witnesses extremist would collapse eventually under its own weight, but it may not—again, because it fits in with the humanistic thinking of the day. It is not so much “mind control” that these anti-cultists are concerned about; it is mind-control that is not theirs. “At one time [Christians] walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” Paul says at Ephesians 2:2. Yes, the prevalent thinking of today surrounds us like air and has the same “authority.” Buck it at your own social and reputational peril.

Here is a Russian Orthodox priest who air-bombs a certain city with holy water as a strategy to combat the “heavy drinking and fornication” that, in his opinion, afflicts the population there. This action is not viewed as extremist. The peaceful preaching of Jehovah’s Witnesses, who manage within their ranks to avoid both heavy drinking and fornication, is extremist, however. One wonders if the word will not shatter someday at the stresses placed upon it.

Tying in a thread from yesterday about the Florida school shootings, I pointed out that two possible courses of actions were proposed, though neither agreed to because the inability to yield is the lifeblood of this system of things, though Witnesses have learned to do it without fuss: either outlaw rapid-fire guns or allow armed veterans and/or teachers to patrol the halls. Neither of those two courses, were they to be found in Russia, would be viewed as extremist. However, Jehovah’s Witnesses, who circumvent the entire problem by living now the standards that they see prevailing in the new system—they categorically renounce violence—are.

It is this world that is extremist, and not the Witnesses at all. However, this world has the upper hand at the moment, so expect similar atrocities of reason to prevail. Once in a while a bone is tossed our way. One Witness got out of pre-trail lockup when a judge ruled that the prior judge had shown prejudicial bias. She had rebuked the Witness with: “You are not a prisoner of conscience and you have nothing to do with the first Christians. You should not speculate on this...” He is and he does, and the second judge ruled that she had been out of line to muzzle the thought.

 

 
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Is it Climate Change or a Massive Scam? Either Way, it Suggests a Presentation.

“Hundreds of thousands of kids marching the streets. Terrorized due to climate change OR terrorized at a massive scam. It is nuts either way. It is child abuse from the older generation either way.”

It is a presentation that I have been playing around with lately. Make the observation, and the scripture you offer to read is Revelation 11:18:

But the nations became wrathful, and your own wrath came, and the appointed time came for the dead to be judged and to reward your slaves the prophets and the holy ones and those fearing your name, the small and the great, and to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”

It is a tricky verse to read. All you are really looking at is the phrase at the end, that God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” Just paraphrase the lead-in: “It’s of future times. It’s what God plans to do. Some of it takes a bit of explaining, but not that last phrase.

The beauty of the presentation is that you do not have to take a stand on whether is there is global warming or not. People will argue to the end of time about which truth is really truth. That is what people are good at—arguing. You don’t have to go there.

Anytime I read a verse, I explain afterwards in a sentence or two why I read it. It’s rather easy to point to the householders fine home (assuming that it is) and say: “What would you do if you had tenants ruining it? Would you bulldoze the home? Or would you toss the people?”

Ex-Witnesses who really really oppose the preaching work will—I’ve never heard anyone else take this position—assert that what Jehovah’s Witnesses should do is stop just quoting Revelation 11:18 and roll up their sleeves so as to do something now to fix things. Don’t let them get away with it. What are they smoking? Do they think that JWs would weigh in as a united block, tipping the balance in their favor? They would fracture into the two opposing poles, the same as everyone else—climate change advocates versus scam perpetrators—and they would just cancel each other out. Tell the grumbler that since he thinks he is so smart and his ex-brothers are so stupid, that they would probably weigh in mostly on the side opposite his and he would just be shooting himself in the foot. He doesn’t want them to fix anything. He just wants them shedding their unity, joining the fray, and forgetting the ministry.

The climate-change fight illustrates one of the reasons that most who become Witnesses do so in the first place. This world faces any number of paralyzing concerns, and in the face of them it is just that—paralyzed. It is the inevitable upshot of humans trying to rule themselves. Each one has a different idea. No one will yield to another. The children pay the heaviest price of man’s inability to govern. Witnesses have little trouble buying into the premise that God alone, earth and humankind’s Creator, has the wisdom to know just how things ought to be governed.

Someone likened reading the Drudge Report to reading the Book of Revelation. Every new outrageous thing is an endorsement of Ecclesiastes 8:9–“man has dominated man to his injury.” Every new outrageous thing is an endorsement of Jeremiah 10:23–“To earthling man his way does not belong; it doesn’t not belong to man who is walking even to direct his own step). Every new outrageous thing rings out as though a prophesy. Each item is an indictment of what unchecked human wisdom produces.

Will the voice of the children be the ones to decide the future? Or do they simply become the pawns of cynical adults pursuing their own causes? What truly would be the “power of the children” would be if they boycotted school and did not return until there was a resolution—either that climate change was real, necessitating such-an-such policies, or that it was a scam with the goal of promoting political policies, necessitating discarding those policies. Otherwise, it is just a day off school, which many kids will choose for exactly that reason.

A boycott of school would have had even more relevance after the Florida high school shootings in which 17 died and another 17 were injured. There were students saying at the time that they would boycott school. That course does not seem unreasonable to me if adults cannot take action to guarantee that school will not become a shooting gallery with themselves as targets. Instead, “responsible” adults funneled their outrage, fear, and energy into some silly one-day gathering in Washington that provided headlines but was otherwise forgotten the next day.

What if they had boycotted school and not come back until their safety could be assured—is it too much to ask that children should feel safe in school? Two possible courses of action presented themselves at the time. Eliminate guns, at least the rapid fire ones, or arm teachers and/or sentries—there are veterans who would count it a privilege to guard the next generation. That kind of boycott might solve the problem.

Except we all know that it wouldn’t. Even in the most life or death scenario, even in the scenario where backs are to the wall, it will make no difference. Opposing factions will not agree. They never do. Again, it is a large part of why people become Jehovah’s Witnesses in the first place: humans don’t have the wisdom to govern themselves. God does. He created us and the planet. How could he not?

Having razor sharp minds trained at the university or anywhere else is only part of the equation, and it is not the most significant part. If agreement cannot be reached, the razor-sharpness goes to naught. It even becomes a liability, since, in frustration at not being able to persuade the other side, its proponents resort to extreme tactics. Education that does not include the ability to agree is ineffectual education that barely merits the term. It is rather like a team with a formidable offense but absolutely no defense—what good is it? It is another reason that people become Jehovah’s Witnesses. Their formal education may not be as high, but as they take their cue from godly thinking and not that of humans, they can run circles around their “smarter” counterparts because they are able to agree. They are able to cooperate, they know how to yield, and they can coordinate action.

 

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The New Covenant vs Old, as Explained in the Letter to the Hebrews

Few things aggravate like being in service and the householder tells you how you can’t earn salvation through good works. Say: “Well, the good works can’t hurt, can they?” Let him try to assert that they do. If they get truly condescending, sloughing you on the basis that they’re Christian (as though you are not), I have even been known to say: “Only a Christian would do what I am doing. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that you are not doing it yourself.” Watch that smug smile fade. I mean, it is fine to decline conversation—more people do than don’t—just not on that basis.

It’s a little dicey. Use it very sparingly, only when richly deserved, and probably not even then, for it is not exactly an example of turning the other cheek. Duh. Every Witness knows that they are not earning anything in their house-to-house ministry. But it is like the mirror that you put under the nose of someone lying prostrate. If that mirror doesn’t fog up, I don’t care how many people tell me that the person is alive—he’s dead. It is the same way with faith.

Besides, it is been there/done that as regards trying to earn life. That is what the Mosaic Law was all about. “You must keep my statutes and my judicial decisions; anyone who does so will live by means of them,” said God of that Law. (Leviticus 18:5.) You could even say that God had set them up for failure, since it was not possible for imperfect persons to keep that perfect law, and he knew it. Of course, you don’t say it, because the purpose of that Law was to direct them to something better—that they would not have seen the need for before. It was setting them up for the real life. That’s what Paul means about the Law being a tutor:

“However, before the faith arrived, we were being guarded under law...looking to the faith that was destined to be revealed.  Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ,that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor.” - (Galatians 3:23-25)

As they trod a path back and forth to offer up sacrifices for their sins, it would occur to a remnant of them that something more permanent would be nice. They couldn’t earn life by following Law. They were flawed. It was beyond them. What they needed was forgiveness for sin, not a just a continual reminder of them via their price tag. As to being “guarded under law,” the Law gave them plenty to do and kept them off the streets where they might get into mischief with the rowdy neighbors.

And so there is the New Covenant, to replace the old Law Covenant [Old and New Testaments, in most Bibles] The old covenant is between God and Israel, mediated by Moses, and inaugurated through the sacrificial blood of animals. The new is between God and spiritual Israel, mediated by the Son, and inaugurated through his own shed blood. The name “Israel’ is even retained—only the identity of those who occupy the slot has changed—those who “contend with God,” as the name means.. It is now “the Israel of God,” (Galatians 6:16) since “not all who descend from Israel are really ‘Israel.’” (Romans 9:6)

Paul waits until he writes to Christians in Jerusalem [Letter to the Hebrews] before he draws all the parallels. They were at “ground zero.” They were in the host city. Three pilgrimages took place there each year—there occasions when the magnificent temple and even the entire city would be abuzz. Meanwhile, the Christians there were meeting in private homes, not the big glorious temple. Did they suffer an inferiority complex?

If you had been a believer anywhere else, you would not have had that contrast for someone to rub into your face, but in Jerusalem you did have it. It took its toll. After a furious spurt of early activity, the ministry of those Christians had cooled off. “For although by now you should be teachers, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the elementary things of the sacred pronouncements of God, and you have gone back to needing milk, not solid food,” the apostle writes at Hebrews 5:12.

They are in some spiritual danger. If you don’t keep forward motion on the bicycle, you fall off. “Beware, brothers, for fear there should ever develop in any one of you a wicked heart lacking faith by drawing away from the living God...so that none of you should become hardened by the deceptive power of sin. For we actually become partakers of the Christ only if we hold firmly down to the end the confidence we had at the beginning.” (3:12-14)

Paul draws upon their knowledge of mutual history. Sure, God, led the forefathers out of Egypt, he says, but he afterwards cast off those “testing” him, those “provoking” him, those “always going astray” despite their having seen his works for 40 years—those who gave in to “lack of faith” and became “disobedient.” (3:7-19)

He ups the ante significantly when he speaks of those who accept, but then reject, the free gift: “For as regards those who were once enlightened and who have tasted the heavenly free gift and who have become partakers of holy spirit  and who have tasted the fine word of God and powers of the coming system of things, but have fallen away, it is impossible to revive them again to repentance, because they nail the Son of God to the stake again for themselves and expose him to public shame.” (6:4-6)

Not to worry, though. He is talking tough, but it isn’t to them: “But in your case, beloved ones, we are convinced of better things, things related to salvation, even though we are speaking in this way. For God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name by ministering and continuing to minister to the holy ones.” (6:9-10)

He just hopes that they will pick up the slack: “But we desire each one of you to show the same industriousness so as to have the full assurance of the hope down to the end, so that you may not become sluggish, but be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” (6:11-12)

He helps them as he points out that the fantastic temple and the high holidays are not the real thing—they are things that go hand in hand with the Law that has become “obsolete,” is “growing old,” and is, in fact, close to “vanishing away”—which it did, just a few years later when Romans destroyed that temple in 70 C.E. It never had been the real thing. It had been the pattern of the real thing.

These “men [the Jewish priests] who offer the gifts according to the Law—[they] are offering sacred service in a typical representation and a shadow of the heavenly things.” Those Christians in Jerusalem had the real thing—big temple notwithstanding. Even “Moses, when about to construct the tent, was given the divine command....‘See that you make all things after their pattern that was shown to you in the mountain.’” (8:4-5)

They had the New Covenant, not the Old. Paul refers to how it was foretold through Jeremiah (31: 31-34): “Look! The days are coming,’ says Jehovah, ‘when I will make with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah a new covenant.... I will put my laws in their mind, and in their hearts I will write them....And they will no longer teach each one his fellow citizen and each one his brother, saying: “Know Jehovah!”...I will be merciful toward their unrighteous deeds, and I will no longer call their sins to mind.’” (8:8-12)

 

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