Today is the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. If you want to read my reflections on last year’s feast, see Feast of Tabernacles 2007.
The first day of the Feast of Tabernacles is a Sabbath. Ordinarily, I do a weekly quiet time on Sabbath days. For my current one, I’m in I Samuel. I study a chapter, which includes listening to sermons about it, reading the Hebrew and Greek, and perusing Christian, Jewish, and historical-critical commentaries. At the end, I pray about what I studied. This sounds like a lot to accomplish, but I do much of it simultaneously. For example, I may read John Gill while I listen to Jake’s hero, Chuck Missler. And I also do leisurely things as I study. I may play Pac-Man while listening to Jon Courson, or watch the Waltons while reading Matthew Henry.
Today, I wasn’t really up to this. The weather is beautiful outside, and I wanted to enjoy it while the autumn is still here. Winter is coming, and I won’t be able to relish the outdoors at that time! So what did I do? I did a few chapters for my daily quiet time, which I can do while I’m walking. That’s not always the most productive way to do it, since my mind can easily degenerate into stinkin–thinkin! But I take my Bible with me to remind myself what the chapter is about. And I’ve started jotting down notes to jolt my memory.
This practice is especially appropriate right now because I’m reading Ben Sira, also known as Sirach and Ecclesiasticus. Reading Ben Sira is like reading Proverbs. When I was at Jewish Theological Seminary, I was doing Proverbs for my daily quiet time (among other books). It could be frustrating, for the author discussed various subjects in a given chapter, and I didn’t always remember all of his topics while I was walking to school (which was my prayer time). That’s why I’m trying not to make the same mistake with Ben Sira!
Today, my Ben Sira quiet times were pretty good. I did a few of them for the past couple of days, and they can be stressful, let me tell you! I feel like I have to comment on all the ramifications of what he’s saying. And he contradicts himself a lot. Do you hang around with the rich and powerful, or do you not? Do you show your wisdom when you are poor, or do you hold your tongue? Following Ben Sira would be a hard task, since I’d feel like I was making a wrong step wherever I turned! But I was a little more laid back today. I looked at the chapter and summarized what it was saying, then I focused on the points that especially spoke to me. Right now, what’s on my mind from my Ben Sira quiet times are two points: (1.) Don’t rely on dreams as much as the Torah, wisdom, and God for divine revelation and (in turn) hope, and (2.) What’s the point of becoming clean, when you’ll go back out and become dirty all over again?
The second point is understandable, but I don’t know how to apply it in every area of my life. I ask God to forgive sins that I have no intention of forsaking (e.g., lusting after women). Why do I ask God for forgiveness? Because I want him in my life! I want to be blessed! I want to know that someone is looking out for me. But I feel like I have to appease him and wipe my slate clean on a continual basis, even when I’m not repentant. It’s like I recognize a rule, but it doesn’t make sense to me, so I have a hard time beating myself up when I break it. Does that make any sense?
I ate at a cheap Italian restaurant. I can’t say much for the service, since the hot waitresses never offered me a refill on my drink. But the food was good. And maybe it’s nice not to go there too often, since I’m rather strapped for funds.
I took some leftovers, and I noticed a homeless lady standing outside. I gave her my leftovers. Am I saying this to brag? Partly. But I think there’s a lesson in this experience. I usually feel bad when I see this lady standing outside, since I don’t buy her a sandwich. But, these days, I only have money to buy myself lunch, not someone else’s. Today, however, I had something to give. I realized that I had plenty of food at home, so I could give my leftovers to someone who’d really appreciate them. That reminds me of what John the Baptist said in Luke 3:11: “Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise” (NRSV). We give from what we have, not from what we don’t have.
At the same time, I should place all of this in perspective before I pat myself on the back. For one, sure, I gave her food for today. But what will happen to her tomorrow and the next day? I did well to give her relief for a little bit of time, but, in the grand scheme of things, that’s not really enough. But it’s still something.
Second, even homeless people want to be treated with dignity. She asked me if I had eaten off of the food, and I said no. You’d expect her to be happy with whatever she got, but she’s like everyone else: she doesn’t want people’s germs! I told her to enjoy the food, and she said thanks in a cold, abrupt manner, though she was really appreciative when I first asked her if she wanted some wings and bread. I’m not sure if there was unintentional sarcasm in my voice when I told her to enjoy her food–meaning that I didn’t intend to be sarcastic, but that’s how I came across. Ben Sira says that coming across as a reluctant giver is a bad thing. Oh well! Ben Sira seems to be like a lot of Christians, who think that if you don’t do something perfectly, then you’d might as well not do it. That’s hogwash! If that were true, then no one would do anything, including those who believe this way (but, then again, they probably see themselves as perfect, so there goes that!).
What will I do for the rest of the day? I may call some of my family. There’s a book on Asperger’s and employment that I want to look at. I have to find my fourth step worksheet for Alcoholics Anonymous. I need to watch a few episodes of the Waltons to free up a couple of hours on the video-tape, so I can tape the Waltons tomorrow morning. And Eli Stone’s season premier is tonight! We’ll have another season of leftist politics with a religious twist.
But today is a day to enjoy myself. And, whatever this post may communicate, I did precisely that!