The First Operation

From the series Breathing Life

Time truly seems to begin in that first breath of man. There’s a maternal quality as the Creator introduces each first of newborn mankind.

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And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. – Genesis 2:7

If I didn’t know anything about descriptive writing and imagery, I’d still be able to tell this verse is an attention-getter. It explodes in my brain with its appeal to the senses. He “formed man of the dust of the ground” and “breathed into his nostrils.” Even the meanings behind the phrases are too deep to capture in one read-through: What really is “the breath of life”? What is “a living soul”? These phrases and words evoke a picture of a life-giving operation the Creator is performing.

Repeating what I said about Genesis 1, I’m not seeing a Creator here who stands back and watches. He is actively involved in the process. I’m given this intimate picture of breathing into the first man’s nostrils the breath of life. In Genesis 2 mankind is the focus. The Creator is going to flesh him out. Literally.

Genesis chapter two introduces the Creator’s name for the first time. It appears first in verse 4, “…in the day that the LORD God made….” In verse 7, the LORD God is the subject actively creating man. Some versions of the Bible insert “Jehovah” for LORD.1 In Hebrew, Jehovah was written in four letters, YHVH. This four-letter word, “the tetragrammaton,” is found more than 6,000 times in the Bible. So it’s clear the Creator wants His people to know His name. Unfortunately, we do not know for sure how to pronounce it because there weren’t vowels in the Hebrew script, and pronunciation was passed down through tradition. God’s name is sometimes pronounced Jehovah, Yehowah, Yahweh, and sometimes shortened to Yah or Jah (as in, Hallelujah). It means, ‘the existing one,’ which depicts His infinite nature. He always existed in the past. He exists now. He will always exist in the future.

The phrase ‘LORD God’ is used exclusively when the Creator is identifying Himself to His people as the cause of some effect. Here He is the cause of the creation of the world and the life of mankind. The ‘God’ in ‘LORD God’ is ‘elohim’ in Hebrew (or elohiym). ‘Elohim’ is the plural form of the Hebrew word ‘god.’ An entity perceived as superior to mankind in power and understanding is called ‘god.’ This Hebrew word is used in the Bible when the writer is speaking of any gods. For example, when Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, decides to follow Jehovah, he says, “Now I know that the LORD is greater than all gods (elohim)…” (Exodus 18:11).   So, ‘ Naming Himself “Jehovah God” for us is our Creator’s way of identifying Himself to His people. He is the existing one Who is superior to mankind in power and understanding. Later, the writer of Psalm 83 will pen,

“That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” – verse 18

So now I know:

  • The second chapter focuses on characters, their natures, and their relationships.
  • The first character is Jehovah God (verse 4).
  • The second character is man, who was given life by Jehovah God (verse 7).
  • Their relationship is the close, “breathing into his nostrils” type.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by permission.

  1. Out of respect for His holiness, the letters YHVH were replaced with the letters for Lord (ADNY) in the Hebrew language.

In Transition

First in the series Breathing Life

Phrases at the beginning of Genesis 2 help identify a transition in the narrative. Here’s one of them:

These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,… – Genesis 2:4

Generations‘ conveys the meaning of a timeline from beginning to end. The same word/phrase is used in passages that list family genealogies. It tells me the creation account in Genesis 1 is in sequence. And, like reading a family tree, it’s the condensed version! Chapter 1 was the context-setter for chapter 2. It’s like the Star Wars crawl, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way” before the explanation about the civil war going on.

…And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. – Genesis 2:5-6

Not only is the narrative transitioning, this explains how the creation transitioned, as well. No humans were prepping the earth to grow plant life, so the Creator steps in with a mist in the interim to make sure there is moisture and aeration. Until all things were created, the cyclical, cause-and-effect process of life was not complete, so it was helped along supernaturally until the point that it was all present and able to work as the autonomous machine I see today.

I tend to want to believe the laws of nature were always in place, and, yet, I accept that the same laws are breaking down – that this earth is slowing down and tearing down and losing its efficiency. Why is it so much easier for me to accept the earth’s future trajectory than it is to accept the launching Force at the point of origin?alley-ball-bowl

Recap: Genesis 2 identifies Genesis 1 as the prologue.

I’ve read many prologues. Some have no intention of setting the context or telling me what’s going on. Some are confusing and require a great deal of non-linear thinking and patience. The purpose of Genesis 1 is not to frustrate the reader, who is there to receive information. Maybe that’s why it starts at the beginning and goes in sequence.  Maybe the Genesis account aids one in basic critical thinking. A sort of primer.

*Featured image by Keriography. Used by Permission.

Life: A Lasting Impression

Should first impressions be called ‘impressions’? Aren’t they more like labels or stamps? People talk about how the most beautiful people they’ve ever known seemed rather plain or even ugly at first. Or how someone’s beauty faded once the ugly mind behind the dazzling looks surfaced.

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Photo by Keriography. Used by permission.

What about the first impression the world makes on us? Babies are born into it screaming and flailing, not knowing what to expect. We all forget those first moments – again, not much of an impression.

In the teenage years, the world morphs into a network of emotional pressures and unspoken behaviors that sends us into a tailspin. I remember wanting to lock myself in my room and stay there…for the rest of my life. But, over time, the beauty underneath the crazy, equilibrium-shattering mess unfolded.

There’s something incredibly alive and regenerative hidden under the scars and disasters of our world, our experiences, and our lives. The older I get the more I understand why it’s a blessing to live a long life, to let living make a lasting impression instead of a knee-jerk reaction to the ugliness.

And there is ugliness. It’s not negative to admit it. How can I reach for and focus on the beautiful things if I refuse to admit there are ugly things in life, things I want to get away from so I can thrive? So I can live.

The series I’m working on, Breathing Life, sparked some of these thoughts. The first post in the series is coming next week. I hope you’ll join me in rediscovering Adam’s world.

Candid Opinion: The Eye-Dancers

Michael S. Fedison, author of The Eye-Dancers, sent an email thanking me for commenting on his blog and letting me know his book was on sale at a discount. I’m an avid reader, and the book cover is really eye-popping. (Heh.) Add to this the analytical writing style he uses in his blog posts, and you know I had to grab it up and give it a try.

The Eye-Dancers is a young adult sci-fi/fantasy novel that explores alternate realities as four adolescent boys try to help a girl living in a parallel universe.

Technically, the story is splendidly laid out. The typos are few. The overall attention to grammar makes this a pleasing read. I was thrilled to discover the book has no profanity. Fedison’s style is descriptive with lots of imagery. The narrative shifts between the perspectives of each boy with clarity, which I found impressive. The style of prose is consistent; Fedison does not polarize readers by dropping in erudite words.

Mitchell, Joe, Ryan, and Marc are mapped out and developed with attention to character. Each boy has his own problems to deal with, his own weaknesses, his own strengths. I related to all of them and picked up on their personalities with each perspective switch. I appreciated this focus on characterization. Unfortunately, they were so thought-out I had difficultly remembering a character like Mitchell was only 12 or 13 years old. I would say the focus on the boys’ characterizations overshadows the plot of the story.

For a fantasy novel with sci-fi elements, I expected the storyline to move quickly through the plot points. The pace of The Eye-Dancers drags from the first chapter. Because of the focus on character development, there is a ton of introspection – which has worked before in sci-fi/fantasy when juxtaposed by danger or action-packed scenes. The Eye-Dancers does not draw its reader forward with intense action or a feeling of impending doom. It lacks momentum.

Overall, I think The Eye-Dancers shows Fedison’s strengths in the areas of POV switches, description, characterization, and technical skill. This book does not receive my full recommendation in its current state because it doesn’t hold the reader’s attention, and it doesn’t have what I think is a satisfactory resolution to the conflict. I would consider reading a future book by Michael S. Fedison because of his visually descriptive style and his grasp of characterization. I would hope to find a more honed approach to his plots in future works.

Thanks to Mike for allowing me to be honest about his storychild. With a completed novel in circulation and a sequel in the mix, he’s definitely further along in his writer journey than I am.

You may have a different opinion. Feel free to make your own decision about The Eye-Dancers.

Happy at Hartfield

We almost moved this month. We found a house that is the mirror image of the house we’ve been renting. It was the one. Well, I thought it was the one. Turns out it was overpriced, according to the appraiser. We couldn’t pay more. The seller didn’t want less, so we had to walk away.

“…that so long as her father's happiness…required Hartfield to continue her home, it should be his likewise.”
“…that so long as her father’s happiness…required Hartfield to continue her home, it should be his likewise.”

I had these plans for “my house.” I was there during the inspection, quietly assessing and picturing our things in each room – which is a tad discombobulating when you’re used to the flipped version of a floor plan. I began to be attached. It was going to be our home, after all.

And now it’s not.

Oddly, I’m not disappointed. Like Emma, when she realizes Frank Churchill was only pretending to be interested in her, I feel like I should be upset. But I’m not. I feel relief. I guess the house wasn’t meant for us. We’re happy where we are. Are you happy where you are?

2017 Battle of Catan

Settlers of Catan. Ever heard of it? Realm is always wanting to play Settlers. He wants more board game extensions, but I don’t know why. If he can’t get players for the original game, why would he think more of the same is a good idea?

Last night – being the beginning of a new year and all – the family acknowledged Realm’s delight in collecting wheat, brick, and ore. We all sat down to a rousing game. Some of us were more rousing than others, specifically Magne who decided his resource cards were all made of gold and wouldn’t trade. There was Dawn, who held the monopoly on wood for much of the game. Did I say monopoly? Why yes, I did. At some point mid-Catan-torture, I turned to Realm and said, “This game is Monopoly! It’s just monopoly re-packaged!”

This is a significant discovery because early in our marriage we had to ban Monopoly for a healthy relationship… with each other, with other couples, with our parents and siblings. Realm is terrifically competitive when Atlantic Avenue is on the line. He gets mean and calculating. Generally, we want our friends and family to visit again, but he’s not thinking about that when he’s bankrupting them with a sparkle in his eye. He’s not thinking of the short responses he is going to receive from me while I simmer over his quiet chuckle when finagling me out of my best property.

Yes, I think Catan brings out the worst in us.  Magne goes into power-hungry mode, and Pearl starts trading using her Batman voice. Okay, Pearl uses her Batman voice for everything lately. “Pass me the salt,” comes out much more threatening, and “the peanut butter cookies were delicious” takes on a Beetlejuice quality. Her Batman voice did not intimidate anyone out of their sheep, though. Pearl lost, Dawn won, and Realm began a campaign of assuring me it was a great game that I played well but for the slight infraction of trading in four brick for a wood when I should’ve offered him three for a trade instead.

Well, my good deed of playing Settlers is done for the year.

My Cup of Tea

We’re in that in-between Christmas and the 1st of January time. The year is fading into the past, the past is merging into the present, and the present is quickly dissolving into future. It’s my time to reflect on who I’ve been and consider who I am and who I will be.

My best thinking requires my pen and connecting to happy memories from my past. I choose a cuppa, and the scents and tastes become my guide.

times-of-refreshingThe aromatic spice of Bigelow’s Constant Comment conjures images of my mother, who sits across from me and smiles with that special look that tells me she’s enjoying herself. We’re having one of our gabfests. She lifts the tea bag with the black and bright orange tag from the dark water in the cup. Her fingertips gingerly cinch up the wet string to keep the dripping bag from swinging as she removes it. She brings the lip of the cup to her mouth, all the while her eyes on my face, fully engrossed in what I’m trying to relay. I’m her eldest child, and we’ve become dear friends in the years and experiences we’ve shared together. She knows me, and she likes what she sees. That acceptance resonates with me as I take my first cinnamon-y sip.

The soothing flavor of Celestial Seasoning’s Honey Vanilla Camomile wends me to those nightly escapades when I had three children 5 and under. The house is finally still. The clack of the keyboard is my only noisy companion as the thoughts roll out and line themselves up before me in an order that eludes me during the busy day. The exhaustion seeps away as I enter the world of my crafting. I stop and take up my cup. The warm, clear liquid swims across my tongue while I review my work in satisfaction.

Pouring Orange Pekoe over milk in my teacup transports me to a time of cake and miniature dishes. The girls pick out the plates and the cups for the tea party; they arrange the crackers and cheese. Little heels flop out of my shoes as they clatter to the dining room, dressed in their finest play gowns. Two pairs of bright eyes watch for cues as to who we will be today while I settle into my chair. Are we rich ladies? Are we maids? Are we robots? Are we lost children today? They reach for the sugar cubes, and their little voices chatter over the orchestral music in the living room — because there will be a ball after tea is over. Soon they will ask me to tell them a story, a new story they haven’t heard yet. One about princesses… and maybe horses that fly. Imagination and discovery fill me, along with a bubbly sense of expectation. Where will my story take us today? I swallow the milky black tea with a satisfied gulp, just as eager to be introduced to my character in some gallant adventure.

The last drink of the Twining’s Lady Grey is stronger than the first because I leave the bag in. I like the gathering strength behind the subtle rendition of Earl-Grey-gone-feminine. I remember being mildly surprised I liked it the first time I tried Lady Grey. Now it’s my favorite. I offer it when drinking tea with a good friend. Rarely do they pick the Lady Grey, and those who do don’t often choose it as their favorite. It doesn’t stand out. It isn’t mild, like chamomile; it isn’t a spice tea; it isn’t sweet, like rooibus. It isn’t fruity or a dessert-type tea. It’s rather a quiet, unassuming brew that doesn’t require but a few sips for the drinker to know whether it’s to be approved or set aside. I like that: an independent tea with definite virtues, but not the sort to please everyone. Looking into the empty cup, I notice the dark stain lines along the porcelain rim. Lady Grey has left its mark. And so have I.