Friday, June 30, 2006

Genesis 28

Jacob’s Dream at Bethel
People CAN Have Visions Without the Use of Hallucinogens

You see, I like stories. I enjoy them quite a lot. With stories, I am allowed to derive what ever point, content, purpose, plan, and/or theme I choose, with the full knowledge that the conclusion I arrive at could be totally different than the one that the author may have intended. And with stories such as the one in Genesis, there are so many twists and turns that it can prove difficult to stop reading. Or, as in the case of historical Jewish culture and similar cultures where history is conveyed through the oral tradition, the listener tries every means possible to keep the storyteller talking because the story is so enthralling that you want to find out exactly what will be happening next.

It is in this spirit that we approach our continuation of Jacob’s story in this chapter. The chapter markings that fill up contemporary Bibles were not part of the original texts and the standard division between chapter and verse was not achieved until the 16th century, just in time for the KJV to enter into mass production in 1611. Thus, anyone who read the Bible before this time would only read the story as it had been written, not being forced to stop by artificially imposed endings to chapters. And even more than that, those who were listening these stories were subjected to the whims of the storyteller who might have ended the recitation for the day whenever they felt like it.

I say all of that to say this – most scholars, when writing about Genesis 28 and focusing their remarks appropriately, combine Genesis 27:46 with Genesis 28:1-9 as a commentary upon how Isaac and Rebekah view Esau’s choice of wives and Jacob’s coming search for a wife. Specifically, Isaac’s blessing of Jacob is a reiteration of the blessing from chapter 27 and an echo of how Father Abraham sent The Servant to look for a wife (Rebekah) for Isaac. Some scholars also note that this section exists to provide a positive and theological context for Jacob’s flight, as if the composers wanted to show that Jacob wasn’t really leaving because of Esau – he was leaving to perpetuate the Promise and find an appropriate wife. (Brueggemann, p237) Moreover, this scene mirrors the events concerning the wives taken by Isaac and Ishmael – Jacob gets the benefit of the blessing and the chosen wife, while Esau reacts negatively and incorrectly by choosing wives from amongst the Hittites and by marrying his first cousin (Ishmael’s daughter). (Alter, p147) It is no wonder that Rebekah’s reaction to Esau’s choices in 27:46 is one of revulsion (and yet another example of her preferring the younger over the elder) – her complaint produces Isaac’s sending off Jacob to Paddan-Aram, in harmony with her sending of Jacob to Laban in 27:43-44. (Berlin & Brettler, p 58)

“When he [Jacob] reached a certain place, he stopped for the night because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones there, he put it under his head and lay down to sleep. He had a dream in which he saw a stairway, resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of the Lord were ascending and descending on it.” (Genesis 28:11-12, TNIV)

Thus, while the core of the story in this chapter is contained within verses 10 through 22, detailing the beginnings of Jacob’s flight from home and the subsequent vision of the ladder/stairway leading to heaven, it seems that Jacob himself is unprepared for what’s about to happen to him. For you see, as opposed to his grandfather Abraham, Jacob had not experienced any contact with God when he launched across the desert. Moreover, in further contrast to Abraham, the reader knows a great deal about Jacob biographically at this point, whereas with Abraham, besides noting the names of his siblings and his wife’s infertility, the reader knew nothing of his personality and character when God first comes to visit him. (Hamilton, p238) In fact, when you examine what we learned about Abraham over the course of 15 chapters with what we have learned about Jacob in the last 3 chapters, one would find it hard to believe that God would really consider either Esau or Jacob to carry on the Promise that had been given to Father Abraham. Esau was a wild man who cared nothing for the birthright and what it truly meant, while Jacob, though understanding the true significance of the birthright and blessing, decided steal it from his brother instead of waiting on God to fulfill the prophecy given to Rebekah.

However, in a move that confuses (or should!) the “morality police” and gossipmongers of past, present, and future, God tends to choose some strange people to prod along the story. It appears that, no matter whatever prophecy or promise is at stake, the character of the one who will fulfill it often doesn’t really matter to God. Thus, Jacob travels towards his mother’s old home and to wherever his father has deemed appropriate to find a wife, unbeknownst to God’s higher purposes and desire for Jacob to truly receive Isaac’s blessing, regardless of Jacob’s tendency towards trickery and deceit. (Berlin & Brettler, p58) Thus, when Jacob awakes from his dream (or in the midst of his dream) to find angels walking up and down a set of stairs that stretch from heaven to earth, he is wholly unprepared to hear from God.

Jacob has never had any contact with God directly, something we can directly intuit from the text’s silence on any communication between God and Jacob up to this point. And that is often how God prefers it to happen. Jacob is running away from his brother fearfully, seeking to save only his own skin, sent off to find a wife by his parents just so he doesn’t start wandering and marry someone who was a local and not suitable for entrance into the First Family. Jacob’s agenda doesn’t include anything close to the will of God and God runs with that fact in how the conversation with Jacob comes to take place. (Brueggemann, p242)

“Then Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel…” (Genesis 28:18-19a, NRSV)

What a transformation Jacob underwent in the verses preceding his response here. Jacob enters into a dream and comes to stare in awe at the angels walking up and down the stairs between heaven and earth. God appears beside Jacob and proclaims to him the same promise that his grandfather Abraham received, and does this as the God of his grandfather and father. Isaac never had this experience and never blessed Jacob with the details of this promise; thus, while Jacob probably heard the stories about his grandfather, there is no evidence textually to state that Isaac or Jacob ever lived in light of these promises. If one were to compare the details of the Promise from Genesis 12, 13, and 17 to those in Genesis 28, the similarities would be overwhelming to the extent that they would seem quite verbatim. God extends to Jacob these promises: 1) the land on which Jacob sleeps will be his and his offspring’s; 2) his offspring will be as innumerable as the dust of the earth; 3) the peoples of the earth will be blessed by his offspring; and 4) God will be with Jacob, no matter where he travels. And upon waking from such a specific and direct line of communication with God, Jacob leaps headlong into loving God and acknowledging God’s presence in his life and in that place. (Brueggemann, p246) From there, Jacob worships a God through the building of a physical monument, the consecrating the direction of his life to trusting God for everything, and honoring God with a tenth of whatever God gives to him first.

A great many commentators give much attention to the physical and historical aspects of the events of this chapter. Whether they attempt to locate the location of this God-to-man communication, discuss the finer aspects of the building of the pillar/monument, or whether or not the angels were walking up and down a ladder or stairway, they spend more time trying to ascertain the specifics rather than gain a glimpse into the transformation that has taken place in Jacob’s life. Now, I do not ever want to dismiss such critiques and information from these authors; in fact, I find much of it to be great illumination into why Jacob chose to erect a physical monument as he made a verbal, spiritual declaration about the course of the rest of his life. However, I feel that some missed the larger, over-arching purpose of God’s entrance into Jacob’s life – Jacob needed this experience, this visitation from the God of Heaven. Before this dream, Jacob had lived a life by his own means and for his own ends, never truly taking the lives of others into consideration (besides obeying the whims of his mother). But after the dream, Jacob realized that he had received a literal and figurative wake-up call for his life – he became heir not only to his family’s physical possessions, but to their spiritual legacy and heritage. The birthright for which he had schemed and deceived for so long was much more important, significant, and eternal than he had ever imagined or dreamed.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

We need to

(That's it....)
Breathe in
(Nice and slow....)
Breathe deeply
(Fill your lungs....)
Breathe out
(Be cleansed....)

Breathe again
(It's been too long....)
Breathe afresh
(The air has been stale....)
Breathe anew
(As if never before....)

(Just breathe....)

Copyright 06/25/2006

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Acceptance and More....

So, it has finally happened. After three or so weeks of waiting, after a great phone interview with the Admissions Representative, after 3-6 months of batting around the idea, after 3-6 months of considering a wonderful offer from my current place of employment, after conversation upon conversation with people very important and essential to my life...

I have OFFICIALLY been accepted for enrollment to Biblical Seminary, located in Hatfield, PA, an hour north of Philadelphia, PA. Technically, I will begin working on a Masters of Theology (MTh), but there's a great chance that I'll be shifting to a three-year Masters of Divinity Program (MDiv) after the first year. I somehow anticipate that I will fall in love with studying the OT & NT in their original languages of Hebrew & Greek, respectively. Thus, such a love will predicate my staying in seminary longer to study/learn/grow in order to better prepare myself to work in & to bring about the Kingdom of God on Earth.

I'm really excited about what's going on in my life -- from the classes I'll be taking, to the opportunity to move to a new place to live, to meet new people, to experience new things, to see where God will be taking my life over the next 3-5 years. Financial Aid has not been finalized, as I haven't learned how much I'll be needing. However, I am hoping that somehow some of my costs will be allayed through grants, scholarships, and whatever money might be available that I won't have to take out in student loans. Granted, I know that I'll probably HAVE to take out some loans, but I also feel that there are just some costs that I won't have to worry about incurring (namely housing). I'm hoping to secure a job up there, working about 20 hours a week at $10/hour to cover bills, gas, food, & other little things that people shouldn't have to put on credit or student loans.

So, I'm sitting beside my bed looking at a stack of commentaries and Bibles thinking about how often this scene will be replayed over the next 2-3 (or more!) years and I get all giddy inside, with a twinge of nervousness. I'd be lying if I didn't admit that I have butterflies fluttering around and banging repeatedly into the sides of my stomach lining. Moving across the country to where I'll basically not know ANYONE is quite a daunting prospect, but I know that, regardless of the social tension that might arise, I will be capable of surmounting it. If anything, I'm like my mother in this respect -- I'll talk to a tree if it stands still long enough.

And if anyone is interested, I'm hoping to do all of my packing on Saturday, September 2nd, so COME HELP ME PACK!! I'll be leaving the Houston area 6-8AM on Labor Day, Monday, September 4th, making a stop in Little Rock or Memphis the first night, stopping somewhere in Virginia the second night, and arriving at school sometime in the evening of Wednesday, September 6th. The school's opening ceremony/get-together will be Saturday, September 9th and the first day of school will be Monday, September 11th.

I can't wait!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Eyes are the Windows to the Soul, or So She's Told...

She struggles
to collect her thoughts,
even though
tongue-tied she's normally not.

She loves
to love everyone around her,
as if
the whole world is what she's after.

Passionate persuasion
Divine intervention
Fervent personality
Continued conversation

She's figured out
how she must live out her days.
But she's worried
that people she knows might walk away.

Because she sees
that her love is not what they have.
So she hopes
that the One she loves brings them back.

Imminent destruction
Painful intersection
Tearful frustration
Heartfelt confrontation

Watch what you love dear
and also who.
Let your story be real dear
and also true.

Not yet.
Are you ready?

Copyright 06/11/2006

Friday, June 09, 2006

Net Neutrality

To all of you wonderful people who read my blog and have no clue what my title is about, I offer this lovely post --

Independent Political Bloggers (or bloggers in general who don't want the FBI, CIA, NSA, or similar departments snooping around in your content) MUST MUST MUST get informed on this topic. This is becoming a non-partisan issue that has brought together people from many different political stripes in an effort to keep available our right to free speech and to keep the Internet an open place to conduct such free speech. Don't be duped into thinking about this from the economic terms that might/maybe reduce your phone/cable/internet bills. To sign onto the Cope Act and its tenets only serves to inhibit the average American's and the average American dissenter's right to say what they think over the Internet without fear of that content being a) screened and deleted and b) from being reported to the federal government. Do yourselves a favor and get educated as soon as possible!

Here's a link to Wikipedia's definition/discussion on Net Neutrality.

Courtesy of Alliance for Community Media
House Passes Cope Act
The US House of Representatives passed the COPE Act in the dead of night by a three to one margin despite the efforts of those working in the public interest. The bill, which was largely written by the Bell Telephone companies, will fundamentally change the ability of our cities to control and be compensated for the use of public land on which the cable and internet systems depend. The Alliance was able to avert a last minute disaster-- an amendment which would have stripped as much as 1/2 of funding for PEG centers on top of the potential losses already in the bill. This was due to a last minute understanding between the Alliance and Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee who graciously withdrew the amendment. She should be commended for her understanding. The Senate is working on similar legislation. Time requires that those who care about Access and the internet speak loudly to prevent the same bad legislation from passing through the Senate.

And courtesy of Democracy Now!
House Passes Controversial COPE Telecom Bill, Rejects Amendment to Protect Net Neutrality

Friday, June 9th, 2006

The House voted on legislation yesterday that could determine the future of the Internet and public access television in this country. We examine the implications of the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act - known as the COPE bill - with Anthony Riddle of the Alliance for Community Media. [includes rush transcript]

The House voted on legislation yesterday that could determine the future of the internet and public access television in this country. In a vote of 321 to 101, the House voted to pass the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act, known as the COPE bill. This controversial telecommunications legislation would permit phone and cable companies to operate Internet and other digital communications service as private networks, free of policy safeguards or governmental oversight. The bill would effectively end what is known as "net neutrality" which is the concept that that everyone, everywhere, should have free, universal and non-discriminatory access to the Internet. The bill would also cut back the obligation of cable TV companies to devote channels to public access and fund the facilities to run them. And the COPE bill would replace local cable franchises with national franchises.
Democratic Massachusetts Representative Ed Markey had proposed an amendment to the COPE bill that would have included stiff net neutrality regulations and prevented broadband providers from treating some Internet sites differently from others but the amendment was rejected.

Rep. Ed Markey (D - MA), speaking on the House floor, June 8th, 2006.
Opposition to the COPE bill came from all corners. The "Save The Internet" coalition, representing musicians, special interest groups, bloggers, and others, delivered almost 800,000 petition signatures to Congress in favor of net neutrality. Internet companies have also spoken out against provisions in the bill. Sergey Brin, co-founder of the search engine Google, met with members of the Commerce Committee to explain the importance of net neutrality for promoting Internet commerce and the CEO of E-bay Meg Whitman took the unusual step of personally e-mailing the auction site's users to ask their support for promoting net neutrality protections. eBay stated that the e-mail reached over a million users.
Anthony Riddle, executive director of the Alliance for Community Media.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Congressman Markey speaking from the House floor yesterday.

CONGRESSMAN MARKEY: Let me just make this point once again. The Bell companies had nothing to do with the creation of the Internet. The Bell companies had nothing to do with the development of the World Wide Web. The Bell companies had nothing to do with the browser and its development. In fact, AT&T was asked if they wanted to build the Internet, the packet-switched network in 1966. They turned the contract down when the government went to them. And so a company named BB&N, Bolt, Beranek, & Newman got the contract, a very small company -- not AT&T. They had nothing to do with the development of the Internet, but now, at this late date, they want to come in and to create these bottleneck control points that allow them to extract Internet taxes, Internet fees from companies and individuals who have been using the Internet for a generation. It is this absence of non-discriminatory language in the Manager’s Amendment and in the bill to which I object.

AMY GOODMAN: We're joined by Anthony Riddle. He’s the executive director of the Alliance for Community Media. Welcome to Democracy Now! Is net neutrality over?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: No, I'd say that we're halfway to the apocalypse right now. There's been a fairly bad bill for the Internet and for public media that has gone through the House. It’s the COPE Act, and it was passed in the dead of night last night, 3-1 margin. Effectively, it continues this sort of decision that was made by the Supreme Court last year in August which changed the Internet fundamentally. Before that time, it was understood that all data on the Internet was to be treated equally and that nobody was to block any information going from anyone to anyone. With the Supreme Court decision in last night's bill, the companies that operate the wires or fibers that bring the Internet to and from your house have the ability to offer preferential treatment for pay, and also to block any content that they deem opposing their business interests.

AMY GOODMAN: So users already pay Internet service per month. So this does the other end, the content providers, people who put up websites would also have to pay?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: No, they actually pay already now. You know, if you have a website, you have to pay for space on the website and you have to pay for a pipeline for people to reach, and however big that pipeline is for people to come to your web site, that determines how many people can access your webstreams or whatever. So people are paying on both ends already. What they're trying to do right now is get people to pay for the middle, so that you can pay for an EZ-Pass lane if you're Disney and have a lot of money, and if you don't, then you're going to have to sit in the long lines waiting to go through the toll booth.

AMY GOODMAN: Is this Senate going to approve this kind of bill?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: There's a set of bills in the Senate that are very similar. There's some differences or whatever. What the Senate will have to do is pass a bill and then the two houses will have to get together and do what they call a “conference committee.” Since both of those houses are controlled by the same party, you know, with large majorities, they can actually change the bills in toto in this conversation. They don't have to stick to the bills that were actually passed. They can add anything or take anything out as long as both houses agree.

AMY GOODMAN: So what is your hope for the Senate?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: This is what I hope: what I hope is that the people who are within the range of this program and all over the United States will check in on this matter. This is of vital importance. We need every kind of community organization that is organized to check in and say that they oppose the Internet being controlled the way that it's being proposed to be controlled, and that public media like PEG – Public, Educational, and Government access -- needs to have the kind of funding that it's had and that it needs to survive. That we need to be able to have the kind of channel capacity that we need in the future, because this is -- this bill is really for the long distant future.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, these are two separate issues. One is net neutrality and the Internet, and the other is public access and saving it, and they're together in the COPE bill or whatever version will also be in the Senate. So what has happened with access now? You were protesting at Congressmember Sheila Jackson Lee's offices.

ANTHONY RIDDLE: Well, there was an amendment added to the COPE Act at the last minute, which would have allowed half of public access funding to be taken to provide an incentive for women and minority owners of small cable systems, which is really a good issue, and it was well-intended, but I think Jackson Lee didn't quite understand what was at stake, that public access, for instance, has the most female subjects, female-run produced programming, the most managers, the same with minorities. This is where we go, you know, to get our message out because we can't get it out anywhere. When she understood that, she very graciously agreed to withdraw the bill with the idea that Congressman Markey and Dingle and some of the others would help to address this issue in a different way. But we averted losing half of P.E.G. funding just last night, just before the vote.

AMY GOODMAN: You were in the gallery when Markey was making a statement and the vote.

ANTHONY RIDDLE: Yes. He made a very impassioned statement. It was really good. It's such a contrast to see Markey making this statement about freedom and understanding and how people ought to be able to interact, and then to see the other side making these impassioned pleas that we should pass this plea, because what the American people need is $20 off of their cable TV bill.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, wasn’t it Mike McCurry, the former spokesperson for President Clinton, who really was the front man, the spokesperson for the key lobbyist for a kind of Astroturf campaign where progressive bloggers had ads on their websites that said, you know, stop government interference or regulation of the Internet.

ANTHONY RIDDLE: This is -- yeah, you're right, and this is like 1984. If they're saying stop government interference, what they really mean is we want interference. It's just like the clean air act. It's been amazing. You know, I've known how the government ran for a long time, but I never really understood the power of money. In California, where there's a similar bill being offered at the state level, the telephone company bought every single lobbyist in the state. When the Cable Television Association went to get a lobbyist, there was not a lobbyist to be found, not even for them. When we talk about over on the hill, Verizon had over 200 lobbyists, just on this bill. That's not even talking about AT&T. They’ve bought every single person they could work on.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think this is payoff to the telecoms for cooperating with the government and the N.S.A., and handing over the phone logs of tens of millions of Americans?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: I don't want to sound cynical, but I think that's absolutely what happened. I think, you know, the government goes and they say, you know, we've got this massive legislation that's really important to you, this is what you really want, you wrote it, we can pass it, this is what we need of you. You bring up a really good point, because what we're talking about is handing over the complete communication system to people who have no regard for your privacy, who will hand stuff over without warrant or anything. I think people really need to be up in arms about this.

AMY GOODMAN: When does the Senate vote?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: We keep hearing different things, it's hard to tell. I know they all want to get out before summer starts so that they can get back and campaign, because it's campaign season. But if the people check in really heavily on net neutrality, on public access –

AMY GOODMAN: Where do they find that information?

ANTHONY RIDDLE: They can go to the Alliance website, which is, they can go to and they can also go to the Free Press site, which is Save the Internet. We implore all organizations – we’ve even got the Christian Coalition and the N.R.A. involved in this, because everybody understands that if you have anything that's remotely not mainstream, that this can be blocked if these measures go through.

AMY GOODMAN: Anthony Riddle, I want to thank you very much for being with us, executive director of the Alliance for Community Media.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Thoughts For, About, and Because of Pentecost Sunday

Fear was brought together this day.
Fractured, scared, bewhildered people
collected themselves because they'd just been told to and
because they possessed any kind of understanding.

The Twelve and their friends,
all disciples of the Risen Christ, went to the Holy City to
and wait somemore.
And they did this all because some angel spoke to them
as they watched their Saviour float away into the clouds.

Scared and hiding,
yet somehow obedient and hopeful,
they gathered together in an attempt to form the
out of many that their Rabbi asked them to create
and told them would be born
when the Comfort arrived.

(Anticipation in a small room gets quite frantic for most people,
dredging up an impatience that's truly maddening...)

But when they least expected it,
and in the most unlikely way possible,
the Wind came,
bringing them the Flame,
and initiating the arrival of the Means by which
the Church would become
in order to spread out amongst
the many around the world and throughout history.

On this day, we celebrate the birthing
God-blessed Church --
followers of the Christ,
carriers of the Spirit, and
propogators of the Gospel.

Copyright 06/04/2006