Although I have heard many of the verses from The Book of Ecclesiastes over the years, I don’t believe I ever read it in its entirety until last night. My curiosity was piqued by a mention of the book on an internet forum, so I read all twelve chapters before going to sleep. I was so astounded that I literally kissed the pages before closing the Bible.

Author Thomas Wolfe described it this way: “[O]f all I have ever seen or learned, that book seems to me the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man’s life upon this earth — and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth. I am not given to dogmatic judgments in the matter of literary creation, but if I had to make one I could say that Ecclesiastes is the greatest single piece of writing I have ever known, and the wisdom expressed in it the most lasting and profound.”

I liked the repetitive descriptions of life as “meaningless” and “chasing after the wind,” and several of the verses struck me as particularly wise.

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11 – What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 – There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 – There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.

Ecclesiastes 9:5-6 – For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even the memory of them is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.

Hiding behind the Bible

LZ Granderson currently has an article featured on CNN titled “Anti-gays hide their bias behind the Bible” – a very interesting look at how many Christians pick and choose which sins are worthy of stones. One paragraph in particular struck me as I read, perhaps because I feel exactly the same way.

I am never ashamed to say I follow the teachings of Christ, but I am not always proud to say I am a Christian. That’s because I am bothered by the continual mutilation of my religion’s basic principle of love by the extremists in my religion who construct a hierarchy of sin — which does not exist in the Bible — for no other reason than to protect their own prejudices.

Read the entire article here.

P.S. I really, really wanted to post this on Facebook, but I’m always concerned with offending someone on my friend list. And I use the word friend loosely.

Taking the Bible literally (when it’s convenient)

I had the most surreal conversation with my paternal grandmother this morning while visiting them at my sister’s home. Sis had just made a pitcher of sweet tea and mentioned how much she liked drinking it.

“That’s not good for you, ” Mamaw replied.

“Well, the sugar isn’t, but the antioxidants in tea are supposed to be good for you. They are now saying that the caffeine in coffee and tea promotes blood circulation in the brain and helps prevent Alzheimer’s Disease,” I said.

“Oh, they’re always coming out with some study that says something. They even claim that drinking wine or beer is good for you.”

“The Bible does mention wine is good for you, right?”

“Well, it isn’t actually talking about wine when it says that.”

“What’s it talking about?” I asked.

“We have a book that explains all about it. It wasn’t wine, but you’d just have to read the book.”

I know there are many verses in the Bible that speak negatively about drinking alchohol, but you’ve got to love how biblical literalists pick and choose which verses they are supposed to take literally. Here’s the verse I was referring to:

Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. – 1 Timothy 5:23

Now, if I can only get them to apply that same kind of logic to the verses that seemingly refer to homosexuality.

Experiencing God through human relationships

I know well-meaning Christians who often remind me, “God’s love for you is better than any love you might find in a human relationship.” While I believe this is true in an ultimate and profound sense, putting it this way seems to set up a false dichotomy. A statement more in sync with the drift of the New Testament might go something like this: “God’s love for us is expressed and experienced mainly through the medium of human relationships.”

– Wesley Hill, a Christian man struggling with sexuality and celibacy

Random thoughts

I hate winter. I used to like it, but the ice storm we had in January completely changed my perspective.

I heard on the radio the other day that two books in the Bible, Esther and Song of Solomon, don’t mention God. Strange.

Pineapple Express is so freakin’ funny.

I am learning to not judge my paternal grandparents so harshly. They are who they are, and they aren’t going to change any more than I am. I’ve been spending quite a bit more time with them since going to work for my father, and it never fails to amaze me how physically fragile they have become.

We have been doing little projects around the house lately. One of the things we are planning to start within the next few weeks is replacing all the stained/varnished doors and trim with white.

Chris Brown is an idiot… and so is Rihanna for going back to him.

Do they really expect people to not continue calling it the Sears Tower?

Honey went with his mother to put their dog to sleep yesterday. Sparky had been with the family ever since he was a puppy and remained there after both Honey and his sister grew up and moved out of the house. Needless to say, it’s a great loss for all of them, but especially his mom.

I played Poker for the first time last night when we stopped by the home of our friends, Todd and Kelly. It all seemed terribly confusing at first, but I did pretty good once I figured out it was all about the ability to bluff.

I am making the switch from Microsoft Expression Web to Macromedia Dreamweaver for managing websites. It’s quite a bit different visually, but I think it will be far superior once I get used to it.

The greatest of these

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels,
But have not love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.

If I have the gift of prophecy
And can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge,
And if I have a faith that can move mountains,
But have not love,
I am nothing.

If I give all I possess to the poor
And surrender my body to the flames,
But have not love,
I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy,
It does not boast,
It is not proud.

It is not rude,
It is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.

Love does not delight in evil
But rejoices with the truth.

It always protects,
Always trusts,
Always hopes,
Always perseveres.

Love never fails.

But where there are prophecies, they will cease;
Where there are tongues, they will be stilled;
Where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
But when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

When I was a child,
I talked like a child, I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child.
When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror;
Then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part;
Then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.
But the greatest of these is love.

I Corinthians 13:1-13

The definition of faith

“I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Jesus the Christ


Faith has always been a difficult concept for me. My tendency to question everything and my need for evidence can easily lead me away from things that I want to believe in or feel to be true. I’ve always felt like faith is a thing that I need to achieve, a goal to reach, something that I will be blessed with if I study and pray hard enough.

I ran across one definition of faith recently that gave me a new perspective. It comes from Martin Luther, the controversial figure who is considered the father of Protestantism. He seemed to view faith as a state of being rather than something to be attained.

Faith is not what some people think it is. Their human dream is a delusion. Because they observe that faith is not followed by good works or a better life, they fall into error, even though they speak and hear much about faith. “Faith is not enough,” they say, “You must do good works, you must be pious to be saved.” They think that, when you hear the gospel, you start working, creating by your own strength a thankful heart which says, “I believe.” That is what they think true faith is. But, because this is a human idea, a dream, the heart never learns anything from it, so it does nothing and reform doesn’t come from this ‘faith,’ either.

Instead, faith is God’s work in us, that changes us and gives new birth from God. (John 1:13). It kills the Old Adam and makes us completely different people. It changes our hearts, our spirits, our thoughts and all our powers. It brings the Holy Spirit with it. Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are. Yet he gossips and chatters about faith and good works with many words.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it. Such confidence and knowledge of God’s grace makes you happy, joyful and bold in your relationship to God and all creatures. The Holy Spirit makes this happen through faith. Because of it, you freely, willingly and joyfully do good to everyone, serve everyone, suffer all kinds of things, love and praise the God who has shown you such grace. Thus, it is just as impossible to separate faith and works as it is to separate heat and light from fire!

One line of Luther’s description is particularly moving to me.

Faith is a living, bold trust in God’s grace, so certain of God’s favor that it would risk death a thousand times trusting in it.

That’s the kind of faith I desire. Maybe one day…