December 31, 2010

Modern Man from Africa? Or Israel?

For some time now, "modern science"/evolution has claimed that our particular race (Homo sapiens/humanity) originated in Africa. Their reasoning has thus far been based on the discovery of the "oldest" human remains in the region of east Africa (roughly "200,000 years old"- although, the margin of error is typically substantial in such figures).

But it looks like they might have been wrong.

Israeli archeologists have discovered eight human teeth "dating from 400,000 years ago" in a prehistoric cave (called the "Qesem Cave") lying east of Tel Aviv (Granted, I don't believe the teeth are actually that old- or even close to that number- but I think the comparative age difference might still be accurate). Israeli archeologists Avi Gopher and Ran Barkai say the cul­ture of those who dwelt in the Qe­sem Ca­ve in­clud­ed (reg­u­lar) use of fire, hunt­ing, cut­ting, shar­ing of food, and min­ing raw ma­te­ri­als to make flint blades. They also added that these findings encourage the belief that (400,000 years ago) there was pioneered and innovative be­hav­ior that may cor­re­spond with the ap­pear­ance of our own "mod­ern ma­n."

Almost as if humans were created this competent, from the beginning?

However, I must mention this disclaimer- the claims have not been proved to their fullest possible extent. Although, the archeologists at the dig site claim to be "confident" about soon uncovering further supporting evidence (skulls, other bones, items, tools, etc.).

If these claims become accepted (widely enough), the implications are enormous.

This could be tangible evidence (more importantly, evidence accepted by the "World") that humanity did not originate in Africa, but that our earliest ancestors actually lived closer to Israel... Which is what the majority of Christians already believe/claim.

"Garden of Eden," anyone? Middle East? Iraq? All of that's pretty close together, if I remember my geography correctly.

I don't even feel like I need to try and exhaust all of the different facts (and the various rumors) of the situation for you; I encourage you to explore the matter and form your own unique opinions and reflections. I really just wanted to share this novel bit of information. So now, I will leave you to read the "information" that I've highlighted (so to speak).

What you think about what you find is wholly up to you, from hereon.

(... Although, that is always true.)

Links to press articles regarding this news:

[Feel free to do further research on Google (or whichever search site you've chosen as your personal "cup o' tea")- I'm not saying their claims are true (I mean, I'm not even tempted to believe that the teeth are remotely close to 400,000 years old- that's just me.), but they could be very indicative of some already-established Truths, at this point. I guess we'll just all have to wait and see what else develops in the situation.]

December 25, 2010

Merry Me, Christmas

It's snowing right now, at this very moment.

I've never had a "White Christmas" before, but it looks like this year I'll finally get one (albeit a tad later in the day than one would typically hope for). What's really neat is that my newest little sister has never had a Christmas before (Her name is Caelyn, 7 years old- we adopted her from China just earlier this year, in January), and God decides to have it snow on her very first!

That is just too cool.

Caelyn has been so excited about today. For the past couple of weeks, she's been perpetually reminding the rest of the family that "Jesus' birthday, soon." It's been invigorating to watch her zeal for the season. And yeah, I know she doesn't actually grasp the concept of the thing (at all)- but that doesn't mean God can't use her to energize and encourage my own faith, and the faith of the rest of my family.

However, as endearing and well-meaning as Caelyn's declarations are, some of them are technically inaccurate. There are a myriad of myths in existence about Christmas (its traditions, about the season, about Jesus, etc.).

Let's take a look at a few of them, shall we?

Myth I: "Jesus was born on Christmas Day."
      Most people are already aware of this myth's existence (and invalidity), but I thought I would address it, nonetheless. The actual date of Jesus' birth is unknown (although many claim it to be in mid-to-late September); it is not recorded in the Bible. Ultimately, December 25th was chosen by the church, maybe even as early as 273 AD, as the day for the celebration. By the year 336 AD, we at least know, the Roman church calender shows record of a nativity celebration by Western Christians on the 25th of December.

Myth II: "The abbreviation 'X-mas' is a secular way to take 'Christ' out of 'Christmas.'"
     The word "Christ," which means "Messiah" or "Anointed One," is a Greek term. "X" actually stands for the Greek letter "chi"- equivalent to the first two letters in the English word "Christ." And it's been that way for many hundreds of years. Even Webster’s dictionary recognizes that the abbreviation "X" was commonly accepted for "X-mas", as well as "X-ian", by the middle of the sixteenth century. This tradition even originated in the heritage of the Church.

Myth III: "'Christmas' is a tradition with secular roots- therefore, Christians should not celebrate it."
     This is a more personal/subjective "myth," I think. But the fact remains that, no matter the ancient roots or reasons for the decision upon December 25th, we celebrate the birth of our Lord, Jesus Christ, during this time. That is a celebration that is present, not past. Moreover, the apostle Paul quoted popular Greek poets in the New Testament (Acts 17:28; I Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12)- why can we not also utilize that which is secular for that which is holy? (This goes for the entire tradition of the "Christmas Tree," as well.)

Myth IV: "There are more suicides during the holidays."
      Between late 1999 and early 2006, more than 40% of newspaper stories reporting on suicide (during the holidays) reinforced the myth that the holiday season led to a rise in the suicide rate. But, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, suicides are not more prevalent during the winter months. Their data actually reports that the overall number of suicides drops during the winter, and peaks during the spring and summer. See "this" NPR report for more information. (Different days of the week are actually shown to have more variation between them than any seasons do- with Monday as the most common day, and Saturday as the least common.)

Myth V:  "Three wise men visited newborn Jesus, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh."
     The Bible never states that there were "three" wise men. In Matthew 2, "wise men from the east" are mentioned, but their actual number is not described. The gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, however, are mentioned, in Matt. 2:11. The reason so many people assume there were three wise men (and put three wise men in their nativity scenes- which doesn't even fit chronologically in the first place) is because there are three gifts mentioned. But we do not know the actual number of wise men in attendance.

Myth VI: "St. Nicholas lives at the North Pole."
     Actually, he does not. St. Nicholas lived in Myna, Turkey. And he died there too, a very long time ago. And guess what? There isn't a single record (historic or otherwise) of him breaking into houses and leaving surprises wrapped in festive paper for the members of the residing families... Who would have thought? Apparently, "Santa Clause" is just imaginary- like the "friends" that young and lonely children make up for themselves, to play with. (Hey, I was one of those kids, I can say that.)

Myth VII: "Jesus Christ came to bring peace on earth." 
     This is the biggest one of them all. Okay, let me explain what I mean before anyone spits at their computer screen. Did Jesus come to Earth so that He could enable us to commune with God, to save us from our inescapable sin, to establish true peace between Christians and His Father? Yes, absolutely- I would never contest those truths. But did He come to bring "peace" between those of humanity? I do not believe so. However, rather than try and defend that to you, I'm just going to quote Jesus' own words, found in the gospel of Matthew (10:34):

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."

Or, elsewhere (also stated by Jesus), in Luke 12:51-53:

"Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother..."

What do you make of that? Even in the first sentence- Jesus outright denies that He has come to give "peace on earth". ("I tell you, not at all...")

"Peace on earth"?

Is it not indicative of something that one of the most popular slogans of the Christmas season (for Christians and non-Christians, alike) is that same, exact phrase- the phrase that Jesus denies as His reason for coming to earth and, thereby, denies as the motive for His birth? (The very thing that "Christmas" is supposed to celebrate?)

... I don't know the answer to that, to be perfectly honest. I can't level such sweeping allegations against a culture and mindset that I am myself guilty of, that I have so long taken stock in.

But I do know this:

I believe (now) that Christmas is not a time to celebrate (or advocate) "peace on earth"- but peace between man and God, instead.

Christmas is (or should be) one of the most intense and vital battles of the whole year, in this "war" (not in aggression/violence, but in intensity/struggle) that we will be waging for the rest of our years here on this earth- the war against sin, the war against ignorance, the effort to reflect God's Truth and glory to the rest of the world, and, perhaps most importantly (for our age), the war against indifference.

I believe that, not because it is popular, but because I feel convicted that it is true.

What you believe is not up to me, at all.

It's up to you.

December 19, 2010

The Common Question of Mankind

Like every other human being on the face of this Earth, I have very often wrestled (desperately) with the question that haunts each of us with its hounding force:

"Who am I?"

Every person here can relate to that query- no matter their faith, creed, race, preferences, history, age, knowledge, values, experience, or any other matter of differentiation. What follows is my perspective, my personal "take" on the matter. But I'm not trying to "push" my beliefs or opinions; I'm just trying to be as genuine and sincere as I can be, true to my own convicted heart.

We are human, all, and this nagging question of identity seems to be perpetually stuck with that existence.

But, even if I'm not able to perfectly define who I am, can I at least define who I am not?...

Who I am is not what I do- I don't think it's even a decision that I need to make, either today or on a day in the far-off future. It's not a lifestyle, and it isn't the emotions that I struggle with. It's not the adrenalined fear I feel when another car starts to cross blindly into my lane, nor the hopelessness that threatens to swallow my heart at the end of a particularly terrible day. My emotions are the clothing my soul adorns- they change to the season. They can be representative of me, or a point in time, and they can reflect my values, history, vanities, or preferences- but they are not who I am.

Who I am is not whether I say "please" or "thank you." It's not something that can be improved upon by a hearty spritz of cologne and a good pair of starched khaki pants. It's not found in my home's equity or in how much money any given year yields for me. It is neither a grade of A+ nor F-. It's not how many people actually read my blog (Thank God!). It's not the number of "friends" I have on Facebook, or the number of posts on my wall.

Who I am is not others' opinions of me- good or bad.

Who I am is not something that will happen to me on a mythical "someday" in my later years. It's something that has already happened for me. It is an intricate mystery, beyond human comprehension or mathematical equations- something that no one will ever completely "figure out."

However, "who I am" does exist, and I can choose to glimpse it, describe it, utilize it, or share it with those around me...

Who I am is the face buried beneath the streaked layers of primitive war paint, the eyes that peep out when the defenses are all the way down, the constant truth I so often hide with crafted masks, of my own or others' designs.

I am (all in all) a beautiful mess, an intriguing complexity, a radiant and unknown truth...

And so are you.

December 12, 2010

Too Holy

One of the things I often feel guilty about is that I don't communicate with God as much as I "should"... If I feel guilty about it, though, then that means the desire for the desire (which might just be the desire, in itself) is there; I'm just not acting on it. So how do I change that?...

I think I'm going to start actually trying to talk to God- literally, plainly, audibly.

Seriously, though- when there's no one else around, nobody intruding on my sense of actuality with their own, why don't I just talk aloud to God? I mean, He's there with me, in that moment, so why can't I speak out loud to Him, as if He's standing right in front of me?

... Actually, maybe it wouldn't be appropriate, or cognizant, to voice my thoughts and feelings to God the Holy Father, the Perfect All-Being. It almost strikes me as boorish. I mean, I feel (and believe) that God transcends, or is complexly beyond, this whole concept and perception of Time, of existence, of interaction; He seems too big to be concerned with the inefficient, petty vocalizations and syntax we have attached to the abstraction that is actually communication.

After all, why did God have all of the regulations, rules, rituals, temples, rites, and sacrifices of the Old Testament? I think it was because He longed to interact with His people, to truly and rightly love them. But something had to change for that to be possible- not because He was incapable of love, but because humanity was (and is) incapable of loving Him in return, incapable of sincerely recognizing and respecting His Being.

Hence, Jesus. He was human, at one "time," pushed and forced along by the same experience of Time that presently drags us in its churning wake. His lungs once pulled in air and oxygen, He had a pulse (and it even eventually stopped), the hair on His head grew and had to be cut, He had to deal with the physical barrier of His own skin. Jesus Christ is God, to be sure, but He was human, as well; and that holy, full-of-wonder mystery (a "paradox," to our crude attempts at "reasoning") is our salvation, our one and only genuine way to interact with the divine, without being damned for our inherent sin.

So maybe I can just imagine it's Jesus there (here) with me. (How's that for a metaphor?)

However, the Father is still out there. And I don't mean "out there" as in beyond the clouds, beyond the expanse of the sky, hiding somewhere off behind the horizon-line. I mean out there as in existing beyond even the very planes, perceptions, "laws," and experiences of this entire Reality- too awesome for words or description, too holy for understanding or comprehension, too prodigious for this puny mind's imagination, much less exchange.

Maybe that very fact is one of the reasons He became a man (became the Son of Man), so that we would be able to finally relate to Him, interact with Him, so He could bridge the unending rift and unknowable gap between the imaginable and the unimaginable. Now, both I and God have the bond and commonality of this shared experience, this allotted rationale and reality, this sense of "reason" and everything that is included with it. We have seen, and worn, this fragile, tragic, and pitiful human state.

But, thankfully, all of this soiled and spoiled humanity could never possibly tarnish the phoenix of the Son, nor blemish His inerrant and aggregate Perfection.

December 9, 2010

"Hello, Officer"

You hear the sound of a siren, barking its shrill whoop-whoop, from behind you. You feel panic set in as you check your rear-view mirror and see the tell-tale glare of red and blue lights on the roof of the cruiser behind you.Your heart jumps over itself, doubling its pace, your stomach gives an ugly twist of nauseous discomfort, and you frantically eyeball your speedometer. Your inner dialogue kicks in before you can even pull to the side of the highway:  

No! Noooo! Not now! Not today! Was I even speeding? What's the speed limit here, anyway?! I thought I saw a sign that said it was 65! It's not my fault! They don't have enough speed limit signs on this road! I'm going 60! Well, nearly 60; I mean, if you round down- it's pretty much the same thing. There's hardly any difference! Stupid cop! Stupid police! Stupid, stupid me. Ugh! I do NOT need this right now!

... It's miserable, isn't it?

I know that you can perfectly relate to what I'm talking about- that sick feeling we all get. Police, cops, law-enforcement officials, security, whatever they're called- they instill anxiety in us, even when we're not "breaking the law." I know they do in me, at least (and in every person that I've asked, as well).

But just think about that truly ironic fact...

How completely and utterly backwards is that? The "law" should inspire the opposite of fear in us. Yet the most endangered and anxious I have ever felt, in my entire life, was around police officers. And it's not even because I was doing anything illegal (which I wasn't)- it's because they have the power to screw my entire life up, and they can do it for the wrong reasons, too. Cops are just human beings. They wear badges on their chests and guns on their hips, yes, but that doesn't mean they're infallible, that they don't make wrong decisions or bad calls, that they don't sin (and sin all of the time, just like the rest of us).

So is that why we fear them? Because we know they're human, because they can make mistakes?

Or, is it because we know that we're human?

It illustrates our relationship with the Law rather well, actually. No, not the "law" of ruddy-red-cheeked men in blue uniforms, nor the "law" of speeding tickets, fines, or closed-circuit security cameras. I mean the true, inherent, natural system of Right and Wrong.

We fear cops because we know that we will slip up, and that we might get caught; because cops, thankfully, are neither omniscient nor omnipresent. They're limited, like us, by what they can see with their own two eyes, by their earshot existences. We can detect their radars, we can tail cars going faster than we are, we can pick up speed again after we crest the next hill.

But the Law isn't like that.

The Law doesn't need a flashlight to see you hiding in the dark, picking your nose. It sees and is aware of everything, no matter how shameful or debased, because it simply is and exists. It encompasses all of reality, being on its own terms, independent of speed traps or human awareness. It is omniscient and omnipresent. It's like a policeman who tails me, two steps behind, every second of every day and night of my entire life. Even more than that, though, a policeman who can read my thoughts, as well. Who can see my heart and soul with perfect vision, all of my darkest secrets and sins, my dreams (by day or night), all of the stuff that I considered to be said, or thought, in perfect privacy.

That terrifies me, a little...

But, then again, God would have foreknown that we would never be able to learn on our own.

I guess that's why He arranged for His Son.

Now, every time I trip up (as I always will), and the Law catches me (as it always will), it's as if Jesus switches to the driver's seat before the Law even has a chance to approach my pulled-over car. Then, the Law sees Jesus and immediately backs off, hands waving in apology, because the Law knows Jesus' face, it knows His perfection, and it knows that it has no right to even give Him a warning.

But that doesn't mean I just speed whenever I want to, and break as many Laws as I'd like- because I'd never get anywhere, since I'd still be getting pulled over every single time I did something wrong. But the truth is that I will mess up, still; it's unavoidable.

But thank God I don't have to fear it anymore.