Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


I Want to See Blood!


My sister, Karen, was four years older than me. As a result anytime mama was at work or out for any reason Karen was left in charge.

Now, I’d like to be able to tell you all that I always did just what Karen said, but that would be a bold face lie right here in black and white.  In fact, being the little sister who resented having the big sister in charge, I most definitely did not.  I usually did exactly not what big sis said.  Maybe not the exact opposite, but not what I was supposed to do.

And, Karen, being large and in charge really didn’t mind lording it over me either.  She dealt out demands and instructions with impunity.  Naturally I thought she was being militant and doling out more of the chores to me than she had for herself because, well, she was in charge.  And who could stop her?

She would give (cough)instructions and I’d say, “I don’t have to do what you say. You’re not the boss of me!” She would get angry and chase me down and I’d stick my fingers in my ears.  I spent a good portion of the time when mama was working with my back on the ground, Karen on top of me, using her knees to hold my hands down to keep my fingers out of my ears, pointing in my face and telling me exactly what I’d do when we got up.

When mama was home we’d bicker.  A lot.

“Yes, you did!”

“No, I didn’t!”


“I’m telling mama!”

“Go ahead you little brat!”

“You started it!”

“Nuh-uh, you did!”

I am quite certain that my mama earned every grey hair she had.  I’m sure there were times when she wondered why on earth she ever had us!

One day we were going on with such childishness – we were children after all – and mama had clearly had enough.  Who knows how many times she’s told us to knock it off.

She ordered both of us out.  “Out! Go on!”, pointing to the front door.  Karen and I, still bickering and mumbling all the way, went out the front door.  Now mama stood in the hallway and we stood on the front stoop, with only the screened door between us.

“Fight, dammit!”

Karen and I looked at each other perplexed.

“None of that, now.  Y’all have been bickering all day long and I’m tired of hearing it.  Go on, fight!  I wanna see blood!”

Now we were looking at each other slack-jawed.

We didn’t fight.  We didn’t know what to make of whatever that was.  We stood there and looked at each other for a good ten minutes, I guess.  It might have only been two but the tension made it seem like at least ten.

I don’t think we bickered anymore that day.  A new day dawned, though, and we were right back at it.

He who fights and runs away, may turn and fight another day.” – Tacitus


*Inspired by the recent grown-up version on various blogs.  Now I know why my mother told us to duke it out.  Sigh…


Keep on Going

Those of you who have read here for very long know that I’m not really into Country Music.  You also know I don’t believe in a literal hell where people are going to burn for all eternity.  But you also know, as is the case for just about everybody, I’ve been through my fair share of hell right here on Earth.  Which is why the symbolism and the imagery in this song resonates with me so strongly and why it makes it a power ballad of sorts for me.

That why every time I find myself in another dark, smokey place, I’ll just keep on going.

Yeah, I’ve been there:

Well I been deep down in that darkness
I been down to my last match
Felt a hundred different demons
Breathing fire in my back
And I knew that if I stumbled
I’d fall right into the trap that they were laying, Yeah

But the good news
Is there’s angels everywhere out on the street
Holding out a hand to pull you back upon your feet


Something from Nothing ~ The Big Bang

Because of a recent debate – if you can call it that – about the origins of the universe I’ve been looking into cosmology.  Since I’m one of the participants, I’m not sure you can call it a debate because I know next to nothing about cosmology.

When I say I know nothing about cosmology I mean it in the classical sense of nothing.  Zip. Zero. Nada. Emptiness. A giant void.

In an effort to educate myself a bit about this I’ve listened to two discussions between William Lane Craig and Lawrence Krauss.

This one:

Annnd this one:

I’ll be the first to admit this goes over my head to a large degree.  And I can’t listen to much more of either of these guys because they both become whiny sounding.

I’m now (as in as I type this) listening to this:

But if anyone wants to know what preceded the Big Bang and how something can come from nothing, here it is:

There was nothing in my head about cosmology.  Having listened to this stuff for a few hours my head is about to explode.  Stand back:  you’re about to see something come from nothing!

Seriously:  If anyone has good recommendations of any youtube videos or other material that talks about this stuff in somewhat elementary, backwoods, layman’s (whatever you wanna call it) I’d be happy to hear them.



Rising Smoke

Smoke_Stock_002_by_mross5013Smoke rose in swirls from the ashtray filling the room with a blue haze. Sunbeams shone in the picture window through the haze like the rays through the storm clouds in a Moses Epic.  My dad sat in his black 1970’s naugahyde vinyl chair with the tufted buttons across the back.  His thirty-two ounce tall cup emblazoned with a cartoon moose head from Hardee’s sat on the table next to the chair; beads of sweat running down the sides.  Ice cubes danced around the top of the cup filled with a third Canadian Lord Calvert, the other two-thirds Coke.

It wasn’t his first of the day.  He’d probably been drinking these since lunch.  More like his third or maybe his fifth.  Wrestling or Dukes of Hazard was likely on the television.  It was Saturday night.

Daddy’d just gotten back from granny and grandaddy’s house.  When he left he told mama he’d be back shortly.  Shortly was never – ever- short.

He was covered in grease.  He’d been working on his truck for the better part of the day, getting it ready to go back out on the road on Monday.  The tv was loud, like always.  I think the neighbors had called to ask us to turn it down.  With each sip of this last drink he was getting louder; angrier; more philosophical.

Not that he was an angry drunk.  Just when things didn’t seem to be going right.  When he had something niggling him.  Today it was his truck.  As an owner-operator keeping that thing going couldn’t have been cheap. He couldn’t find a back-haul for his load going into Florida on Monday, either.

Having had a broken back when he was a bit younger he was likely in pain a good bit of the time. He was underneath a car working on it when the jack fell.  We didn’t have health insurance.

“I’m telling you Ruth, you’re gonna have to use that head of yours for something besides a hat rack! You’ve gotta be smart.  Because in this world ain’t nobody looking out for you; nobody’s got your back.  Ain’t nobody gonna take care of you.  You gotta look out for number one!  I swear, I don’t think there is a God.  But if there is one, he’s a cruel s.o.b.  We ain’t nothing but pawns in some sick game of chess he’s playing.

And I’m telling you something else; I hope I die young!  There’s a lot worse things than dying in this world.  Watching your grandaddy – well I just don’t care about getting old!”

With that I remember turning my attention to something else.  I liked to write even at nine or ten.  And continued his rant. He’d rant sometimes like that.  Around the world and about everything.  Most of the time I just remember his smile.  He smiled a lot more than he ranted.

He died at thirty-six.  I guess he got his wish.  I still miss him.


The Devil in the Details ~ The Resurrection Accounts: Mark

This is Part one in a series on the Resurrection accounts as recorded in the gospels

Mark 16:1-8

Dating:  Between A.D. 55 and A.D. 70

Author:  Possibly, but not conclusively, John Mark (not one of the 12 disciples, but aid and interpreter to Peter; accompanied Paul at least part of the way on his first missionary journey).

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

Irenaeus wrote (Against Heresies 3.1.1): “After their departure [of Peter and Paul from earth], Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.” Note that Irenaeus had read Papias, and thus Irenaeus doesn’t provide any independent confirmation of the statement made by the earlier author.[1]

It is debatable whether or not the writing was begun before or after the death of Peter.  If it was before, it was only shortly before. So the record of this gospel would have been, most likely, from the memory of the writer who was not an eyewitness on the hearsay of Peter who was an eyewitness some 25 to 50 years after the actual events.  Peter’s death is marked around 67 A.D. and John Mark’s is marked around 68 A.D.  [2]

The Gospel of Mark was the first gospel written. That Irenaeus had read Papias is not a definite indicator of the writer of this gospel account.  Since Papias writings are circa 90-120 A.D. it is unlikely he was living at the time of the writing.  Papias does provide the earliest testimony in writing to the author of the Gospel of Mark based on oral tradition.

If I’m understanding correctly: even if it’s given that John Mark wrote Mark, what we have is the writing from memory of a non-eyewitness based on the recollection of Peter years after the events, attested to by Irenaeus who lived in the next century, based on his reading of Papias based on oral tradition testifying to the veracity of the authorship of the Gospel of Mark.

According to Christianity we are to trust that this account is accurate without the benefit of any original documents because the Holy Spirit has kept it safe from error, embellishment, and fabrication of it’s content.

*ETA:  I am open to correction and/or other information on the dating/veracity of authorship of the Gospel of Mark.


[1] Early Christian Writings

[2] SonofMan.org


Humility or Futility?

Oak Leaf Hydrangeas, Photo Credit: Ruth

Oak Leaf Hydrangeas, Photo Credit: Ruth

The pious Martyr Bradford, when he saw a poor criminal led to execution, exclaimed, “there, but for the grace of God, goes John Bradford.” He knew that the same evil principles were in his own heart which had brought the criminal to that shameful end. [1]

I’m not sure how many times I uttered the phrase, “there, but for the grace of God go I”.  Drug addicts, alcoholics, deadbeats, sloths, jailbirds…I’ve had lots of things go wrong in my life and I’ve had every opportunity and excuse to be any one or combination of these.  So I clung to my faith and believed with all sincerity that it was being under the protection go God’s umbrella that kept me from doing so.

I believed that even though things beyond my control had gone wrong it was God’s continual favor for my faithfulness that kept me from choosing to do those things.  Every one of us was capable of those and even more terrible things, right?  Every one of us has only evil in our hearts apart from God’s guiding us to do good, right?

Not only did I believe ardently that Jesus was saving my from hell, I believed he was my salvation from myself; from my destructive, sinful, self.  It was a malady I was born with and one I would take to my grave and only Jesus could keep me from being my worst self.  Even so I knew I wasn’t good.

“As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;” Romans 3:10.

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. Mark 10:18

No, I wasn’t good.  I was just less bad. Even if I never actually did anything particularly sinful I thought about it.  My thinking was sinful so I was a sinner.

I was reminded this week of the futility of this thinking:

I love Luther not because of what he is in himself, but what he is in Christ. Like me, Luther has no righteousness of his own. None. He is a beggar, just like me, sitting at the table of Christ Jesus. I love Luther because he sang to me that Christ alone our shame He bore. Christ alone our sin He carried. I love Luther because he showed us that it is not our righteousness that saves. For we have none. What saves is Christ’s righteousness in us. I am a sinner. In Christ, I am a saint. This sainthood is not ours but Christ Jesus’ in us. [2]

This thinking is not, as is the implication, humble.  This thought is actually either arrogant or fatalistic.  Or both.  How can we be so arrogant to think that we were worth saving from ourselves but that poor fellow marching along in chains being led to his execution wasn’t? When we say such a thing we are expressing the belief that it is not our own decisions that have kept us from peril, but God Almighty, himself. Are we so arrogant to think we are somehow so special that God preserves us?  Are we so fatalistic as to think that our future is not in our own hands but the whim of a God?

I cannot stress enough what a relief it was to come to the realization that this simply not true.  There is no one continually monitoring my every thought.  There is no one watching my every move.  While I still realize that sometimes thoughts materialize, they don’t always.  They don’t even usually.  They are just that; thoughts.  How liberating to realize I wasn’t born a….sinner.  There wasn’t something wrong with me that needed to be fixed just because I think things.

Dr. Martin Luther King, in his famous I Had a Dream speech, said:

I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

I, too, have a dream: That there will be a day when people will not be judged by the mark of this beast we call God, but by the content of their character.

For we are not so special that any gods guides us not to do the horrors of other men.  We are not destined nor predestined to commit atrocities without a deity.  We are not saved by the grace of God from ourselves.

We are saved from self-destruction by our own consciences and our ability to empathize. It is when our own consciences have been seared and when our empathy has withered that we do harm to others and ourselves.


[1] The Treatise on Prayer, pg. 60

[2] Daniel Prayson, http://withalliamgodDOTwordpressDOTcom/2014/06/03/the-luther-i-love-is-the-luther-i-am-shamed-of/#more-7552


Fool Me Once…Won’t Get Fooled Again(The Who)

This song seemed rather poignant for me today for some reason – especially that first verse.  How many revolutions, both literal and figurative, will be fought over hard and fast definitions of morality and doctrine?

Battle lines are drawn and blood is shed – literally and figuratively.  And for what?  For the pleasure of being in the right;  to lord it over those who don’t believe the same things we do; to claim victory; and to revel in another’s defeat.

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgement of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song


The Struggle Within

I found on my journey out of Evangelicalism that there was a great struggle within myself.  It was difficult seeing evidence, tangible and real, that what I had held for so long as a belief was simply not true.  While I believed it with all my being, evidence to the contrary made it increasingly difficult to carry on believing what contradicts things that can be known as a certainty.

This evidence produced within me, at first, fear.  I struggled to hold on to my beliefs because of the consequences of unbelief.  Because I knew the fate that awaited me if I dared to question and not have a child like faith in the unseen.  For it is written, “without faith it is impossible to please God.”  And if this God is not pleased with us, what then?  There is hell to pay.

It is my great pleasure, then, to aid anyone who might be having this same struggle within.  I know, I’ve been there.  So when I popped over to check out the ongoing debate on our friend Gary’s blog regarding the credibility of Paul’s witness and the resurrection, I was delighted to find his newest post:

Hell is an Invention of the Ancient Greeks

Gary’s comments:  Sorry my fellow Christians, but the concept of Hell sure sounds as if it originated in ancient Greek legend,  was adapted into and modified by Judaism, further modified and embellished by the Christian authors of the New Testament, and then used by Church officials for the last 2,000 years in “hell fire and damnation” sermons as a means of terror to control the lay Christian’s every behavior and to extract obedience and…money (indulgences).

This horrific concept of eternal torment is nothing more than superstitious, ignorant, pagan nonsense!  We must stop teaching our children this ancient Greek horror story!

Hell does not exist, folks!  It is a superstitious concept used to control the ignorant masses.


This brought a smile to my face.  I don’t know and really don’t care if I had any part in his relinquishing the horrors of hell.  I’m just so glad he did!

He has more interesting posts and it’s interesting to see his inner struggle and watch as a fellow sojourner leaves fear in the dust to embrace a freedom he had not before known.