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On mothers. sisters, wives, daughters and grannys

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Who are the Nephilim, anyway?

When human beings began to increase in number on the earth and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of humans were beautiful, and they married any of them they chose. Then the LORD said, ‘My spirit will not contend with humans forever, for they are mortal; their days will be a hundred and twenty years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days—and also afterward—when the sons of God went to the daughters of humans and had children by them. They were the heroes of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:1-4, NIV)
Type the word nephilim into Google search and watch as preachers and theologians turn themselves inside-out in attempts to exegete Genesis 6:1-4.Nephilim are either the product of the coupling of the “sons of God” with human women, or they’re not. The “sons of God” are either angels who abandoned their place in heaven and are copulating with women, or they were the heroes of old, men of renown. But in verse 5, God is in despair of the wickedness of…

Flesh and Spirit

A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6: 7 & 8, NIV)
If you’re like me, Paul’s ubiquitous reference to Christian life as a war between flesh and spirit can be a puzzler. Flesh, to me, has always had connotations of meat; like a raw tenderloin of pork or a carcass of beef hanging in a butcher’s cooler. Or in the human body, flesh wound as opposed to a broken bone. Muscle, in other words, comes to mind. 

The Greek word Paul was using, s├árks,can denote flesh but also connotes the person before Christian regeneration. The person as physically born. In effect, then, Paul would be saying in verse 7, “If you persist in thinking and living like you did before you heard and accepted the good news, you are sowing daily the seeds of your own disappointment.” 

Parsing spirit isn’t easy either. Typically, Christian faith has assigned the Spirit the at…

Inner Silence

This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietnessand trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.(Isaiah 30:15, NIV)
It's nearly 9:00 o'clock on a winter Wednesday morning. I've just read Father Richard Rohr's column on “Inner Silence,” the contemplative life that makes space for renewal and maintenance of the spirit. “Inner Silence,” I conclude, is the opposite—roughly—of thinking. Thinking/doing is mind-busyness while resting in inner silence is a gift to the mind as sleep is a gift to the body. (Rohr would probably recoil at this analogy.)
I'm obviously not in a contemplative state right now, at least not of the kind Rohr describes. I couldn't be writing these words if I was because this task takes thinking. And obviously, Rohr was not in that state either when he typed out his description of it.
But I'm very aware of sound and silence. I can hear the faint rhythm of the water…

Temples, churches and such

I'm currently leading an adult study group in a series of four lessons from I Kings concerning the building of Solomon's Temple. We're being reminded about the symbolism that's present in structures Jews and Christians have built over the centuries. Only some archaeological bits of Solomon's temple remian in existence, and no cathedral construction comparable to St. Peter's in Rome, St. Paul's in London or St. Isaac's in St. Petersburg is currently being contemplated, at least not to my knowledge. (An exception might be the SagradaFamilia in Barcelona, which remains unfinished although begun in 1882.)
How we construct worship sites says a great deal about the nature of our beliefs regarding whatever higher being we imagine. In the case of the temple of Solomon and the subsequent temple destroyed by the Romans, location was apparently relevant to sacredness; the “temple mount” in Jerusalem “usurped” by the Muslim Dome of the Rock is to this day a “holy” s…

The "O" in "NOW"

The “O” in “Now”
Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past. If all time is eternally present All time is unredeemable. (From T.S. Eliot, Burnt Norton)
Were there no dog doing odd gyrations in the street in front of the post office, Sol would spend less time on the balcony and the unbelievable coincidence would not happen. The purpose behind the canine’s pirouetting is of no particular interest to Sol; it's the spectacle that rivets him. Over the tips of the spruce trees backgrounding the post office, sun dogs form tall pillars as if framing the red brick of that ancient structure—with the date of its nativity, 1902, above the shiny aluminum-and-glass doors. So anachronistic, it seems to Sol, and so not in keeping with the stateliness of the Victorian flounces and curlicues, the arched windows. 
Sol lights a second cigarette; the dog—a nervous rat terrier—stops his dance long enough to raise a leg to the mailbox beside the …

The Oxen at Christmas

The Oxen By Thomas Hardy Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock. “Now they are all on their knees,” An elder said as we sat in a flock By the embers in hearthside ease.
We pictured the meek mild creatures where They dwelt in their strawy pen, Nor did it occur to one of us there To doubt they were kneeling then.
So fair a fancy few would weave In these years! Yet, I feel, If someone said on Christmas Eve, “Come; see the oxen kneel,
“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb Our childhood used to know,” I should go with him in the gloom, Hoping it might be so.
Many of us brushed up against the pastoral tales of Thomas Hardy in high school and college, I think: Tess of the d'Urbervilles, The Mayor of Casterbridge, Far From the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure. Hardy grew up Anglican and although he retained a lifelong affection for the church and some of his best friends were ministers, he would probably be best described as an “agnostic Christian.” He lost faith in what he called “the external personality…