Tuesday, 18 December 2012


Open letter to everyone in the world:

Hai. As you're probably aware, this week is the turn of the 13th baktun in the Maya calendar. This date has been the subject of much excitement and unfortunately many errors about the Maya civilization have been propagated. Which is sad because Maya civilization was totally wicked and cool as it is and needs about as much help as Psycho needed to be remade.

As most of us know, the Maya had a pretty accurate set of calendars. The long count is one of these. It contains measurements roughly analogous to our day, decade, century etc.  A baktun is a kind of like a millennium and lasts about 400 years. There are 13 of them (or sometimes 20) in Maya calculations.

At some point someone decided the Maya just stopped counting time when the 13th baktun occurred because they thought it was the end of the world. Except some calendar dates actually contain higher units of measurement than a baktun (the next unit is called a piktun). That means it doesn't end on the 21st, rather the date rolls into the piktun. Even if there weren't higher numbers, there is no evidence baktuns aren't cyclical.

Some people think that because the Popul Vuh contains a number of creations that they were expecting the destruction of this creation and the next creation to occur. That however is conjecture, and there isn't any solid evidence that the Maya actually believed this.

The turn of the 13th baktun was seen as a time of great change and the end of an era (possibly the Maya era)--it is a very significant date in the Maya culture, kind of like y2k was for us.  Maybe even a time when gods came to earth and made things happen. But not necessarily the end of the world.  Sure there were probably a few nutters planning to skulk around in the jungle and live off the ceremonial grid, but those people are everywhere.
Many people also like to post the Aztec calender stone when they are making these assertions about the Maya long count calendar.  Now the Aztec calendar stone does look really cool and stuff. Only problem is it's not the calendar in question. This is what the Maya long count date for the 21st of December basically looks like (with roman transliteration beside):

I drew that cause I'm awesome at being a nerd. But notice how it looks NOTHING like the one everyone is posting? Yeah. The stone is actually a representation of the Aztec version of the 52 year cyclical calendar. NOT the long count. Besides Maya and Aztecs aren't the same people. They have many aspects in common but still are distinct cultures. It's like posting a picture of the Canadian flag every time you talk about USians. Weird and makes you look dumb.

Also "Mayan" refers to the languages of these cultures. The people are known as Maya.

I could go on (for HOURS) but I'll cut you all a deal: I submit that we place a limit of one glaring error per reference to the Maya, their calendar and what it looked like (I would prefer none, but I'm willing to compromise because I'm benevolent like that). That way you're only making ONE mistake to make my head pulsate. In return I'll try to resist forcing you all to play a round of cosmic ball game.

 By the way the loser gets killed in that. And you would lose.

your friendly nerd.

EDIT: saw a new one that said something to the effect of "if the Mayans could predict the future there would still be Mayans"Three strikes, DEFINITELY A BALL COURT OFFENSE. I'm wondering who the hell these people think LIVE in the Yucatan region these days, fricking Egyptians???

Monday, 26 November 2012


Continuing on in the vein of my last post, I ended up writing a long and melodramatic tome on the providence of God. Watching the patterns emerge was hard; in some ways writing about it was almost as difficult. But also instructive in the way I've learned only hard lessons can be.

Anyone who has read a lot of Dickens knows he had an affinity for connecting everyone and everything in a nice loop at the end of his books. There were no coincidences and if you wondered what the hell was the point of discussing Jerry Cruncher’s grave robbing excursions, you just had to wait til the end of the story and you’d find out. Sometimes you have to wonder if God isn’t writing a Dickens novel and telling you the end would spoil it.

 As my motto says, God often works by contraries. Perhaps that's why James tells us to append "if the Lord wills" to any statement. We really don’t know what his secret plans are. And, as I've said, of all things we can be thankful to God for I think that’s one of the most valuable. We have no idea what he has in mind, only that it’s ultimately for some good. We pray earnestly to be conformed to the likeness of his son, to be used in some way, with no idea how he is going to answer those prayers. When he does, it’s usually in very surprising and sometimes unwanted ways. In my experience the times I see a definite answer have mostly been bone crushingly painful and I think “if I’d known this is what he was going to do I would have taken it all back”.

As I have often said, we go along brokering little deals with God, ignorant to the fact that he isn’t in the contract business and his silence isn’t acquiescence. Until we get to the point where he’s supposed to keep his end of the bargain, and he reneges. As we ride along one way, thinking "the Lord's SO in this" He turns. Hard. It's like how when you learn to ride a bike and take a turn too fast resulting in the bike going one way and you another. It ends with a thudding stop at the ground, a face full of dirt and many tears. The value is in what you learn from it.

It’s been a decade of learning from the fall. I think about the person I was then, and I know that without the falling down, I could never become the person I am. I know that God has been working providentially in all things to answer my immature prayers; they are too coincidental in the Dickensian sense to be anything else. And too painful and hard. It’s kind of amazing how he pushed and pulled me through it all to make the new me.  I would have never been able to do what I am doing now at 24. Would never have been able to be the person I am now. And part of me still laments that it took everything that it did to make me grow up. I know that it’s not all about me, but in the end these little things are how he brings us closer to him. And I want to thank him for all the hell he brought into my life that I could be outfitted for heaven. Working in contraries again.

**Then I wrote a bunch of what turns out to be insignificant details to advance the thesis. Let it be known that it was advanced. "Testimonies" often become hopelessly narcissistic and the forest becomes lost for the trees. But I have to give credit where credit is due, and as James said, know it was the Lord’s will that I would do this or that thing. He had and has bigger plans than me making it through the last ten years. Obviously I am to work for the good of my neighbours in my vocation, and in so doing become a mask of God and a means by which he acts providentially in their lives. He will make the differences through my small gestures of kindness. He will conform others to the likeness of his Son.

It’s pretty staggering when you realize that everything you’ve gone through isn’t just for your benefit but for the benefit of others. That he is going to keep that cycle going and continue to glorify his name in all the earth. And it’s like man. Despite how many times I showed up in the story, it’s nothing but a footnote in a serial. This wasn’t about me at all. I am Jerry Cruncher robbing graves.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

I asked the Lord, foolishly perhaps

    It's Thanksgiving weekend here. I'm not averse to giving praise where it's due and I have a lot to be thankful for this time around. More than I can even speak of. I usually start bawling when I think about how much better my prospects in life are now than they were a year ago when the only thing I had to be thankful for was that Jesus was coming back at some point to destroy the world, and certain places with it.

     Needless to say I've had a bit of a reversal of fortune in the last month or so. It feels a little like the epilogue of Job, when the narrator says "don't worry, God gave him all his awesome accoutrements back".  Like waking to hear the birds singing and thinking maybe all that horribleness was just a dream because everything is right again. You have your life back. But as you regain conciousness, there's something different. Like a lump in the throat, a knowledge, a qualitative change in feeling that grows stronger the more you remember.

     I still have everything I ever wanted and needed, but it's not the same. These are different children and a different house; and moreover, I am a different human being. I saw God in the eye of a whirlwind--standing at the very epicentre of the hell my life had become.

     John Newton wrote a dark and plaintive hymn on that experience. The failure of every plan, the destruction of all you held dear by God himself. All is lost and all you can do is trust in the one who slays you. And that's where he meets you--in the pits of death, clinging tenuously to what life you have left, crying with all the pain of your soul. Job himself would have understood so well.
I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.

’Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.

I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He’d answer my request;
And by His love’s constraining pow’r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.

Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow’rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.

Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.

Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
“’Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.

These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may’st find thy all in Me.”

    When the birds are singing in the morning, one can't help but note how silent they were mere hours before. And you know you're never going to forget what the silence was like. Because God has stepped in and changed you, and in that, everything around you. Just not in the way you ever expected.  To paraphrase Luther, he took you to heaven by way of hell. And heaven seems so much more beautiful knowing what hell was like.

And man. Who the hell writes hymns like this anymore?

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Theology of HAM (Bacon too)

 I promised Damian and Holly and the rest of the howling mob that I would write this one day. I'm pretty sure they thought it was an unmeetable challenge because how can you have a serious theological discussion about pork products? I assure you I can have a serious theological discussion about just about ANYTHING. So here it is. 

One of the obvious things about the Torah on even a quick read is that it really was impossible to avoid uncleanness. Normal everyday life made you unclean. You could be unclean without even knowing it and uncleanness could be an issue of many degrees of separation. Death, even as a part of life, was acknowledged as a major source of defilement (I have always felt the reason the priest and levite in Christ’s story of the Good Samaritan passed by the man who needed their help was a futile attempt to remain clean). 
We also see that God kept separating himself from the people lest they became “holy”. The holy things of the tabernacle ran the risk of sanctifying everything they touched and had to be protected. Always seemed odd to me that this was something to be avoided. However I think the stories in Numbers of what happens to people who encounter the holiness show why this was. They usually end up dead.  If the holiness of God makes things holy and clean, it must also destroy everything that is unclean, like bleach kills germs. What this meant for sinful people was that it killed them. So God remained separate even while dwelling amongst the people. Obvious allusions to Christ aside, the tent of meeting where Moses spoke to God was outside the camp.

Even with a safe distance between them, there were still stringent purity laws designed to protect the holiness of all involved. No one could enter the assembly with any sort of defect or blemish, and without carefully following a complex set of laws designed to keep them outwardly pure (and alive). Of course part of this were laws governing what could be eaten, touched or even indirectly come in contact with as “clean” food. As we know, the reason to this day Jews and Muslims don't eat pork is because it is not a clean food. And they are bound to avoid a host of other foods as well as blood in order to remain pure.

But we see a paradigm shift in cleanliness rules with the coming of Christ. Suddenly the holiness is spreading again, just like in the wilderness. Only this time it isn’t killing. It’s making alive. It’s healing and making whole. As we see in Torah, the dead defile everything they touch. We, without Christ, are The Dead. We can try to whitewash ourselves with ceremonial cleanliness, but in reality we are full of dead man’s bones. In Christ we are finally made alive. And it’s a life that is incorruptible, as he himself is.

Because of his powerful life and pervasive cleanness, nothing can make those who are in him unclean. As God, his cleanness overrides the uncleanness of incidental items, making Zechariah's words ring true: even horse collars and household cups are holy to the Lord and ceremonially clean. Christ made cleanness a matter of knowing the one who makes clean rather than eating the right thing--he taught that it was not what went into a man that made him unclean but what came out (what comes out of those who are in Christ but the power of the Holy Spirit?). And as Peter found out, we have no right to call unclean what God has made clean. That applies to pigs and people, death and life.

And when he commissioned his disciples, he told them to make disciples of all men. The walls that had been so carefully built in Torah were being exploded by the final consummation, life in Christ. There could be nothing to fear in going to all people and fellowshipping with them as brothers because the kingdom was no longer a matter of what one did or where one came from. Holiness was no longer an exercise in separation, but one of communion--with God himself and with one another.

But the condemnation of the law of purity still had to be dealt with--Christ took this on too and bore that condemnation on our behalf, taking the curses on himself that we might be blessed. This means that we are free from the crushing yoke of the law and able to live as sons. We no longer fear God's wrath over our eating of the wrong thing, for Christ took this in his body.

So eating ham is making a theological statement. It’s that we accept people of all tribes and tongues to fellowship in Christ. It’s that we now can do all things through him who strengthens us. And it’s that our Lord took all our uncleanness, made us clean and everything else clean for us. In giving his life, he made us finally alive to God. We don’t fear his presence or his displeasure any longer, for he is pleased with us in the Son. So we eat ham and proclaim the gospel. Especially bacon cause it tastes good.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Modern Grief

In the vein of something I posted some time ago, I was reading objections from The Lancet to the DSM 5 removing grief as an exception to major depression. The story can be read here or on The Lancet website. It does force one to ask in what world is two months too long to grieve;  I know people who have had meds pushed on them after such a short period. The Lancet suggests the motivation for the change may be greed--more people to foist pills on to. I'm not entirely sure that's the only reason.

From a Christian perspective, the development goes to show that not only is the "guilt perspective" of the western church being medicalized away, so now is the pain of death being pathologized. Pretty soon there's not going to be anything left for Jesus to save us from, people. We'll have done it all ourselves. Right?? Yes, we'll still be guilty. We'll still die. But you see it won't matter in the long run. We'll have masked and explained away and treated all the negative symptoms of the decay that is endemic in the human race without having to deal with God at all. And without having actually fixed a thing. Oh brave new world that has such creatures in it.

The quote from Philippe Aries was illuminating:
 Death must simply become the discreet but dignified exit of a peaceful person from a helpful society that is not torn, not even overly upset by the idea of a biological transition without significance, without pain or suffering, and ultimately without fear.
Yeah. We may think we can dress the wound as deep as the sea with a bandaid and say peace, peace, but there is only one way off of the one way ride to oblivion; to throw yourself on the mercy of the one stronger than death, your guilt and everything else. Solus Christus.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Playing Chicken

Over Christmas I actually got to make a few things. All two of you who are part of the in crowd of theo already know about this, but posting it anyway for posterity:
Heh yeah I just stole the pictures off of Holly's blog. I guess the USian government H8s me now. Oh well, not like I ever played by other people's rules. 

I saw a chicken quilt on pinterest, and decided to make one for Holly since she is a pastoralist now--there has to be some advantage to having little char to care for. Although I'm sure little char can probably care for herself, I'm also pretty sure she's probably totally self-absorbed and narcissistic, which means she is very demanding. And she prolly tries to peck out the eyes of all the happy chickens named after hebrew letters who don't give her books even after they promised to. 

Anyway it's a pretty simple piece, just fused the pieces on and machine embroidered, and quilted in a freeform feather pattern. It's been a long time since I've done any extensive machine embroidery, so I wasn't sure how it would turn out (especially because I had no stablizer), but I used some old bounce sheets and went to it. Here is a shot Holly posted of the embroidery.

 Skillz-I still has em.