19 December 2016

Today's Readings and Stuff -- Monday, 19 December 2016

A cozy 10 degrees here.  But that's a +10°, not a -10°, which is a very large difference.  I know which is worse.  In about an hour, our intention is to drive to nearby donut shop (DD) to make the twice-per-year meetup with my sister and her husband.  They are both on staff at a very liberal christian college in central Virginia, and graciously consent to spend an hour with us twice per year.  Roads being ice covered and treacherous, getting back on their way with a possibility of arrival before full darkness hits, makes good sense.  I do love my sister, and her husband is o.k.  Married more than 25 years now, no kids, which in their case was wise.

I am reminded that in just two days, we will --  Lord willing -- encounter to Winter Solstice, the first day of Winter and the shortest day (of daylight) of the year.  The Vernal Equinox, the first official day of Spring, will be 90 days in the future.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that the Solstice does not equate to a return of warm breezes and sunshine and all that.  Hardly.  Not in these parts, at least.  The worst of the cold is, probably, before us.  In this area particularly, which has some "odd"  things that go on.  For example, the St. Patrick's Day Blizzard.  St. Patrick's Day in 2017 is on Friday, the 17th of March, almost the same day as that above mentioned Vernal Equinox (Monday, March 20, at 06:29).  Yet, in this area in particular, there is a HEAVY expectation, born out of years and years of experience, that this very day will have a very heavy snowstorm.  Calling it a blizzard is probably a bit much, but there certainly have been significant snowfalls on that day, quite often.  So, as I said, weather predictions for this area over the next 3-1/2 months are not likely to encourage shorts and flip-flops.  Quite the contrary.  As a result, we expect at least 3, probably 4. more months of cold and snow and gray skies and all of that.
I hear the term "seasonal affective disorder".  That probably translates into "hates cold and snow", which doesn't sound like a "disorder" at all, it sounds like good sense.

Now, I realize full well that kvetching about the weather is pointless, though it's one of those age-old behaviors of humankind..  I realize that when you get above, say, the 36th parallel of northern latitude, weather will get cold in the winter.  Here it's worsened by the presence of the Great Lakes, providing moisture to the prevailing winds coming out of Alberta, Canada.  Hence, snow in quantity.  Yes, it's pretty much built in.  But having lived below that 36th parallel for quite a number of years, I have some nice memories of NEVER seeing snow, and others of rarely seeing it.  I liked that a lot better.

It's not "just" the lousy weather, it just accentuates an area that is depressing enough in itself.  This area was once a moderately prosperous industrial area.  People moved here from all over the world.  Within a 25-mile radius of where I sit, I can find Amish (my cousins) who came here from Switzerland and the Palatinate, escaping horrible religious persecutions from the Lutherans, Calvinists, Russian Orthodox, and a few Roman Catholic officials.  Here are groups whose ancestors came from Poland, Hungary, Austria (my late father-in-law), Ireland, Wales, Corsica, Spain, Lebanon, Egypt, Russia, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Norway, Finland, Sicily (my late mother-in-law's parents), Italy, Syria, Rumania, Ukraine, Germany, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Slovakia, and others.  They worked the mines, the worked the steel mills, they worked the farms, and the rail roads and the barges and the trucks, they ran the restaurants and groceries, they had children in the schools and supported the churches and synagogues.  That was "then".  Seems like centuries ago.  Now?  Now I drive past rows of closed factories and stores.  Past empty buildings that once housed schools and churches.  Past weed-covered lots where houses stood, once.  Now gone.  Entire streets being erased from the city maps so they don't have to do upkeep on the water and sewer lines or the fire hydrants.  Some being repurposed as "urban farms".  Others being -- clandestinely -- planted with marijuana, or providing venues for cockfighting operations and the gambling associated with them.  Or where bodies are too often found, bearing marks of violence, or of a drug addiction with one too many overdoses of heroin or the like.  Where prostitutes ply their trade behind a bar or "party shop".  Where generational alcoholism is common, as is fetal alcohol syndrome.  Or the spectacle of "crack babies' is not a rarity.  Where hope is a stranger.  With the gray skies and cold overshadowing all of it.
This is what I see all around, daily.
Both issues are beyond human remedy.  Perhaps we are called to be instruments  of the Lord's work on the matter, but I don't see which way to move.  And am as powerless to address the human issues, as I am to remedy the lousy weather.  Depressing.  

This was a quiet weekend here.  Had ice storms come through Saturday night, made the region a sheet of ice.  We stayed home, stayed in, matter of fact.  In the late afternoon, Dear Wife trundled across the back yard to her niece's place so as to 'watch" the great-niece as the parents went off to a company Christmas party.  Little One is now 4, as of Saturday.  When we made the Great Move, she was just about to turn 1 year old, couldn't walk or talk.  Now she runs and jumps all over, talks non-stop.  Not terribly well, but about what you expect from one that age.  It is neat, I confess, to watch that development, remembering those days with our daughters, so many years ago.


Today we open another of the "minor prophets", Micah.  Chapters 1, 2, and 3.
I confess that I had long slid through this without a great deal of attention.  That was wrong.  That was very wrong.  There is a great deal here to "chew on". 

Micah 1
1 The word of the LORD that came to Micah the Morasthite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem. 2 Hear, all ye people; hearken, O earth, and all that therein is: and let the Lord GOD be witness against you, the LORD from his holy temple. 3 For, behold, the LORD cometh forth out of his place, and will come down, and tread upon the high places of the earth. 4 And the mountains shall be molten under him, and the valleys shall be cleft, as wax before the fire, and as the waters that are poured down a steep place. 5 For the transgression of Jacob is all this, and for the sins of the house of Israel. What is the transgression of Jacob? is it not Samaria? and what are the high places of Judah? are they not Jerusalem? 6 Therefore I will make Samaria as an heap of the field, and as plantings of a vineyard: and I will pour down the stones thereof into the valley, and I will discover the foundations thereof. 7 And all the graven images thereof shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with the fire, and all the idols thereof will I lay desolate: for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot, and they shall return to the hire of an harlot. 8 Therefore I will wail and howl, I will go stripped and naked: I will make a wailing like the dragons, and mourning as the owls. 9 For her wound is incurable; for it is come unto Judah; he is come unto the gate of my people, even to Jerusalem. 10 Declare ye it not at Gath, weep ye not at all: in the house of Aphrah roll thyself in the dust. 11 Pass ye away, thou inhabitant of Saphir, having thy shame naked: the inhabitant of Zaanan came not forth in the mourning of Bethezel; he shall receive of you his standing. 12 For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem. 13 O thou inhabitant of Lachish, bind the chariot to the swift beast: she is the beginning of the sin to the daughter of Zion: for the transgressions of Israel were found in thee. 14 Therefore shalt thou give presents to Moreshethgath: the houses of Achzib shall be a lie to the kings of Israel. 15 Yet will I bring an heir unto thee, O inhabitant of Mareshah: he shall come unto Adullam the glory of Israel. 16 Make thee bald, and poll thee for thy delicate children; enlarge thy baldness as the eagle; for they are gone into captivity from thee.

Micah 2
1 Woe to them that devise iniquity, and work evil upon their beds! when the morning is light, they practise it, because it is in the power of their hand. 2 And they covet fields, and take them by violence; and houses, and take them away: so they oppress a man and his house, even a man and his heritage. 3 Therefore thus saith the LORD; Behold, against this family do I devise an evil, from which ye shall not remove your necks; neither shall ye go haughtily: for this time is evil. 4 In that day shall one take up a parable against you, and lament with a doleful lamentation, and say, We be utterly spoiled: he hath changed the portion of my people: how hath he removed it from me! turning away he hath divided our fields. 5 Therefore thou shalt have none that shall cast a cord by lot in the congregation of the LORD. 6 Prophesy ye not, say they to them that prophesy: they shall not prophesy to them, that they shall not take shame. 7 O thou that art named the house of Jacob, is the spirit of the LORD straitened? are these his doings? do not my words do good to him that walketh uprightly? 8 Even of late my people is risen up as an enemy: ye pull off the robe with the garment from them that pass by securely as men averse from war. 9 The women of my people have ye cast out from their pleasant houses; from their children have ye taken away my glory for ever. 10 Arise ye, and depart; for this is not your rest: because it is polluted, it shall destroy you, even with a sore destruction. 11 If a man walking in the spirit and falsehood do lie, saying, I will prophesy unto thee of wine and of strong drink; he shall even be the prophet of this people. 12 I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men. 13 The breaker is come up before them: they have broken up, and have passed through the gate, and are gone out by it: and their king shall pass before them, and the LORD on the head of them.

Micah 3
1 And I said, Hear, I pray you, O heads of Jacob, and ye princes of the house of Israel; Is it not for you to know judgment? 2 Who hate the good, and love the evil; who pluck off their skin from off them, and their flesh from off their bones; 3 Who also eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them; and they break their bones, and chop them in pieces, as for the pot, and as flesh within the caldron. 4 Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. 5 Thus saith the LORD concerning the prophets that make my people err, that bite with their teeth, and cry, Peace; and he that putteth not into their mouths, they even prepare war against him. 6 Therefore night shall be unto you, that ye shall not have a vision; and it shall be dark unto you, that ye shall not divine; and the sun shall go down over the prophets, and the day shall be dark over them. 7 Then shall the seers be ashamed, and the diviners confounded: yea, they shall all cover their lips; for there is no answer of God. 8 But truly I am full of power by the spirit of the LORD, and of judgment, and of might, to declare unto Jacob his transgression, and to Israel his sin. 9 Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. 10 They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity. 11 The heads thereof judge for reward, and the priests thereof teach for hire, and the prophets thereof divine for money: yet will they lean upon the LORD, and say, Is not the LORD among us? none evil can come upon us. 12 Therefore shall Zion for your sake be plowed as a field, and Jerusalem shall become heaps, and the mountain of the house as the high places of the forest.


The evening's reading is chapter 10 of the Revelation.

Revelation 10
1 And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire: 2 And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth, 3 And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices. 4 And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not. 5 And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven, 6 And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer: 7 But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets. 8 And the voice which I heard from heaven spake unto me again, and said, Go and take the little book which is open in the hand of the angel which standeth upon the sea and upon the earth. 9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. 10 And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter. 11 And he said unto me, Thou must prophesy again before many peoples, and nations, and tongues, and kings.

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