Thursday, April 29, 2010
Monday, April 26, 2010
I wore a sweater today that had its tag ripped out so I did not know whether it was made out of one fiber or two. However, it was really cute and matched my outfit so I went ahead and wore it. My desire to do this assignment is slowly slipping. Sunday was wet and cold and all I wanted to do was wear pants. However, all of my pants or leggings had stretchy stuff in them. Because of this I got a rash where my rain boots (which were allowed although certainly made out of mixed materials) rubbed against my bare leg – ouch.
I actually did pretty okay in following Leviticus 23:3 – “Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.” However, if you count talking to high schoolers in Sunday school then I did work on the Sabbath. I was lucky because on Sunday there was a Mini-retreat put on by the Women’s ministry at my church. So I spent a couple solid hours in solitude, journaling and praying. The fellowship I enjoyed with many generations of women was also a rejuvenating process. It was one of the most restful Sabbaths I have had in awhile.
On Monday in New Testament class we learned that the Sabbath was not only made for the Israelites but also for the nations surrounding them. I had not considered the evangelical benefits of practicing a Sabbath until now. Refraining from work for a day is a very noticible difference between cultures. Dr. Chapman said that the Romans considered the Jews to be lazy and thought of it as one of the weaker points of the religion and culture. Reflecting on how the Sabbath was spoken about in the New Testament, I love how Jesus defends the heart of the Sabbath to those who want to make it a burden. It seems quite kind and loving of God to institute it for us to enjoy.
I am totally sick of this assignment. All novelty has worn off. I just want to wear a pair of jeans again. All of my jeans have some sort of stupid stretchy substance in them. I am now layering all of my one-fiber cardigans on top of each other in order to keep warm. I am really glad that this assignment came later into the Spring, because I would have been unable to keep the clothing law in the colder months. It’s kind of strange to think about how most things that go on the lower half of a woman’s body have some sort of stretch in them, but the tops usually don’t – at least in my wardrobe.
To give some sort of summary of the things I have learned, I would put at the top the experience I have had with the clothing law. I felt more consciously limited and submissive following this law than any of the other laws. The discussion in Wenham about the various animals that were determined ‘unclean’ was fascinating and opened me up to an opportunity to think about how God views human relationships with animals.
It was an interesting exercise to become aware of the people in my environment enough to stand up to honor those with gray hair in my presence. This also made me think about how age is not as valued today as (I presume) it was in the ancient near East. Any of the gray-haired people I discussed this law with seemed sort of embarrassed by the gesture. I attended a women’s ministry event at my church on Sunday and I was more impressed by the elderly women than I would have been had I not been participating in this assignment.
I had a discussion with a classmate today where he joked that he was focusing more on the “heart” of Levitical laws – quitting the clothing law specifically. We laughed about this and I thought later how different an experience this assignment is. When approaching scripture I usually try to engage my heart first and then focus on my actions afterwards. This week I am focusing on my actions and engaging my heart shortly afterwards. I love this, it is teaching me how connected my life is: my actions and my heart are intrinsically linked.
I was ritually unclean today because of the discharge of blood. It seems as though much of the Levitical law is written to males. I assume that this was because males were the ones offering sacrifices for their household. I am also wondering if everything is impure for seven days because this is usually how long a period lasts, or if the seven days refers to the amount of time after the period ends that everything is impure. However, I will be done with this assignment before that time and I haven’t decided what I will do in regards to washing everything.
However, because I was already unclean for the day, I was tempted to throw the rest of the laws out and wear and eat whatever I wanted. This was especially enticing because of the persistent rain all day. I went ahead and wore weather-appropriate clothing, even though my raincoat is made out of different fibers and I assume that my rain boots are as well. However, at one time during the day I realized that I was wearing a sweater made out of different fibers and walked home and changed. I surmised that my philosophy toward the assignment was to follow it as long as it wasn’t totally ridiculous in the circumstances or made me miserable.
Wenham says that it is the seven days following the last day of the period that a woman is still unclean. That means that she is ritually unclean for half the month. This seems unfair. What also seems unfair is that “menstrual impurity is viewed as just as contagious as gonorrheal discharges.” What does this mean? As stated in class, the state of impurity meant a level of separation from communion with God. Why must women be separated from God for half the month?
Nothing really happened today – I worked all day long at the florist and was on my feet all day long and so had no opportunity to stand when a gray-haired person came into the room. My two bosses have gray hair and I honored them the best I could by following their instructions.
However, I had an appointment with my counselor the previous day and we talked about anger. The passage from Leviticus 19:17 has been on my mind - “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.” I don’t know how to handle this passage. In some areas of my life I have difficulty being angry when it is appropriate. However, in other relationships in my life I struggle with inappropriate anger.
The prescription found in Leviticus for anger in relationships is somewhat unhelpful in my current relational situations. “Reasoning frankly” within the relationships would cause more harm than good. Wenham’s commentary on the passage states that “the value of having things out with people rather than brooding on them is mentioned more than once in the Bible” (268). The passage is aimed toward peace and love between members of the nation of Israel as well as an effort to cut down on lawsuits and murders. The next verse is, “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.”
I must take this passage in the context of the rest of scripture. I am trying to move down the path of righteousness and am wanting to love my neighbor as myself. However, at the same time I recognize that relationships are complicated and the journey is long toward love and peace. I need grace daily.
I ran into a dietary inconvenience today at lunch: there were a few items off limits on the menu. While I could have ordered the items and requested that the pork product or “au jus” (which included blood and fat, I found out) be taken off, it would have made the dish significantly less tasty. Wenham’s commentary on Leviticus 11’s list of clean and unclean animals is helpful. He divides the animal laws into four categories: arbitrary, cultic, hygienic, or symbolic.
These categories are helpful, as is Wenham’s discussion on modern theories about the food laws being hygienically motivated. Wenham makes the point that the Old Testament authors could have easily revealed the reasoning behind the law, as they had elsewhere. Also, hygiene and cooking practices had not advanced very much by the time that Jesus abolished food laws. There were surely other harmful things to eat that were not included in the “unclean” category, such as poisonous plants.
Wenham’s analysis of Mary Douglas’ interpretation of the laws is enlightening and inspires more questions. Douglas supposes that all of the animals listed as “unclean” somehow have characteristics that are not common within their animal kingdom. The theory is that “…man must conform to the norms of the moral and physical perfection, and animals must conform to the standards of the animal group to which they belong” (170). Did some animals adopt different characteristics at the moment of the fall, just as man fell from moral and physical perfection?
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday night was “prom night” at the youth group for which I intern. I had to break the law found in Leviticus 19:19 - “nor shall you wear a garment of cloth made of two kinds of material" in order to dress appropriately for the event. For some reason, following this law has made me feel submissive (in a good way) to something larger than myself. I care about what I wear and see it as a creative outlet. To have a simple rule imposed on this area of my life has reminded me that Christ is over all of me.
I am still struggling to be mindful of the people around me enough to stand up when a gray-haired person enters the room. I am anticipating that Sunday I will just have to stand in the back of the sanctuary at church for most of the service. In a discussion with my roommate I had the opportunity to reflect upon where and when I make a conscious decision to block out the presence of other people around me. This has caused me to contemplate seeing a person as an “It” or a “Thou,” from Martin Buber’s book.
Wenham’s commentary on Leviticus 19 was helpful to understand the covenant meaning behind the ban on mixing things such as cloths. Israel “must keep separate what God created separate. As God separated Israel from among the nations to be his own possession, so they must maintain their holy identity by not intermarrying with the nations (Deut. 7:3-6).” God ordained me to be part of His people. I am separate from other human beings because of this distinction. I am able to praise God in this because I love how well He knows His creatures. A sure way to make us remember things is to involve it in the practicalities of daily life. This way, we not only remind our selves but we teach our children and those around us about our identity.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Yesterday was my first day living Levitically. What was most on my mind the whole day was my outfit - restricting oneself to clothing of one fiber isn't technically that difficult, what made it hard was the fact that something outside of myself was determining my behavior. I had to submit in an area of my life where I am not used to being told what to do. This simplified my life because I wasn't as in control, it was an eerie feeling. None of my underwear was made out of one fabric, so I will be breaking that law all week.
I am certain that I forgot to stand when elders with gray hair were in my presence. This practice forces me to be aware of my surroundings in a way that I am not used to. I will try to be more aware tomorrow.
I am doing okay not eating any animals on the black-list. I don't eat a lot of meat anyways. I’m not sure what to do about the law of not eating fat. There is fat in most things that I eat. Based on class discussions, I am assuming that this law has to do with sacrificing the best portions to Yahweh. I am interpreting this law to mean today that I should not indulge in very fatty foods.
I mention that I am doing this assignment to people and get various responses. From facebook I got jokes about me stoning people. From church friends I got questions about random laws that weren't in Leviticus. No one had ever heard of the standing in the presence of elders law.
I hated at least one of my friends in my heart. I asked for forgiveness.
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
found on Vulture
Monday, April 19, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
And you once caused my cells to shimmer
Now we go all the night without love
My dad is the only person I know who does not steal. Ever. When we go on a road trip, he won't stop at a gas station just to use their bathroom. He feels that's stealing the station's paper towels and soap.
During my year, I tried to think like my dad. You must be constantly aware of the impact of your actions. Because we steal all the time: We steal office supplies. We swipe our neighbor's wireless. We steal time from a friend by being late. We steal from our kids' future by leaving the lights on when we go out of the house.
You have to think absurdly broadly. Is refusing to buckle your seatbelt an act of theft? Probably. If you get injured, you're taking medical resources away from others. What about eating a plate of trans-fat-filled curly fries? Probably stealing. Anyway, it tastes too good not to be sinful.