DISCOURAGED ? Visit the devil’s yard-sale !   [a book review]

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Below is my modern mash-up (simply updating pronouns, gender and style) of a parable written by William Rathvon in 1911.  The original portrayed an auction, as the devil was “going out of business” — but perhaps that was a bit premature in 1911? — being prior to two world wars.   Well, fast-forward to where he’s now holding a weekend yard sale, hoping to cash out before the apocalypse arrives either to snuff or “rapture” his potential buyers; or before Jesus descends from the heavens onto the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (which would disrupt Lucifer’s rummage sale) — so, queue the medias’ search-lights in Jerusalem! ~see Acts1:11.   (Note: I consider myself a Judeo-Christian believer – yet only God knows if I qualify – so please recognize that my sarcasm is not directed at Jesus, but rather at some widespread misinterpretations of the Bible.)



Indeed these notions have spilled out of “the churches” — dangerously infecting the general public of western civilization, and beyond.  If you believe the end is near, or that your life or human civilization is at risk of becoming dark, or worthless, or even over, be alert!  (Belief shapes experience, which, for example, is why BigPharma spends millions doing double-blind experiments, including into placebo-effects about the power of belief.)  If belief affects personal physiology, is it too far-fetched for it to affect our social mindset, too?  Well, perhaps “the end” is greatly exaggerated? But hey, every life seems to have an end! – or maybe a coda (a “next chapter”)? – or a sequel? — so let us recall that there have been at least five major global extinctions of life across deep history, yet life continues. And now we have “Extinction Rebellion” — young people vigorously resisting a “sixth”. Well, all stories do have an end, so what do YOU believe about “The End”? What story do you occupy, or anticipate? 

Clearly the devil has not read Professor Bart Ehrman’s disruptive new book, ARMAGEDDON: What the Bible Really Says About the End  — or he wouldn’t be so hasty to liquidate his tools. (Ehrman is a prominent, some might say “infamous”, church historian.)  I’m confident the devil doesn’t want you to read a free sample excerpt ! — so, do it anyway ?  OK, here’s my modern version of Rathvon’s parable:



It was recently announced that the devil was holding a weekend yard sale, and would offer his tools for sale to anyone who would pay his price. On the first night of the sale they were all temptingly displayed, and a bad looking lot they were: malice, envy, jealousy, holier-than-thou (a.k.a. “pride” ~see v.16…), hatred, sensuality, deceit, betrayal, and all the other implements of evil were spread out, each marked with its price. As a centerpiece, there lay a harmless looking wedge-shaped tool, much worn and priced higher than any of the others.

From among the crowd, someone asked the devil what it was for. “That’s discouragement,” was the reply.

“Well, why do you have it priced so much higher than all the others?”

“Because,” replied the devil, “it is more useful to me than any of them. With it, I can pry open and get inside anybody’s consciousness, even when I couldn’t get near them with the uglier, more complicated tools; and once inside I can use that person in whatever way I desire. It’s so  battered because I use it with nearly everybody, as very few people are aware that it belongs to me.”

“You say you use this wedge-of-discouragement with nearly everybody  — with whom are you unable to use it?”

The devil hesitated a long time and finally said in a low voice, “I can’t use it to get into the consciousness of a grateful person.”

It should be added that the devil’s price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold. He still owns it, and is still eager to use it.

REVIEW quotes of Ehrman’s book:

“Vigilantly persuasive.”  —The Washington Post

“Lucid and compelling.”  —Library Journal (Starred Review)

“Ambitious.”  —Publishers Weekly

“Well-argued [and] certain-to-be-controversial.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Ehrman is always highly readable… posing thought-provoking questions about what readers believe and how those beliefs affect their actions. Lots to ponder here. –Booklist




I’ve recently finished reading a page-turner of a tome, a biography of two adversaries, titled FATAL DISCORD: Erasmus, Luther, and the Fight for the Western Mind, by Michael Massing. This author is a masterful researcher and storyteller.  Anyone with an interest in the history of ideas would find this book lively. The book has range and depth, across empires, popes, kings, wars, and rivalries.  At its center is a fight over how to read the Bible in it’s many fragments, collected in Latin and Greek (and more). 

Decades ago at a nondenominational divinity school, when I encountered the puzzle of reading the Bible in early languages, I dropped out.  Today the online tools are amazing.  Here’s an example from my own study:

Rocky, Rocco in Latin or Italian, is a tough-guy name.  But petros, in Greek, from which we get the name Peter, not so much.  Think Pebble.  (Was Jesus yanking Simon’s tail, by giving him a diminutive nickname?) 

Rock, Pebble? Yet Peter is thought of as a brawny fisherman, the foremost disciple of Jesus – the leader of the pack – but the church which Jesus reportedly built upon Pete’s name is feminine, petra, bedrock! (Why are churches run mostly by men?) Enjoy the word-play with Peter’s name! 

¿What fun, no?  I’ve been reading the Bible since I was seven, by free choice.  I own and use many translations and paraphrased renderings.  One became a personal favorite a few decades ago, The Message, done by an exciting translator, Eugene Peterson, a language scholar and Presbyterian minister who helped his congregants develop their spiritual lives thru translating the text with them.  His publisher promoted his translations as Read the Bible again for the first time.  It was that fresh. 

Language is a living thing.  It goes stale when bottled or canned, as can be seen in the Latin mass, the Vulgate, the King James Version (which I love and use almost daily, reading between its lines by unpacking the Hebrew and Greek). 

One of the exciting things about Massing’s book is that it reports the histories of Bible publishing, often as a contest of wills between many powerful players, which became a deadly contest with beheadings, burnings at-the-stake, murders, and social upheaval – all over the meaning of words.  Hot stuff!

And it continues yet today.  We have shootings in churches, assassinations of politicians, gynecologists and ministers, and fierce fights over how to read our own laws.  The idea that a document can be “frozen” and understood using a mindset that was in the heads of our Founding Fathers, imperils the understanding of our Constitution.  This approach to interpreting the law of the land, contrived by Justice Scalia, is thoroughly debunked by the dean of a prominent law school, in his slim but powerful volume WE THE PEOPLE. 

How to read is so basic to being a modern human.  A favorite author who became a born-again Christian as a teen, went to two evangelical colleges, got a PhD from Princeton Theological Seminary where he started to question his understanding of the Bible, and today no longer identifies as Christian (but continues to study the Bible, and write books on biblical topics), is one of the most popular professors on his campus in the Bible belt.  His many accessible and compelling books on translating the Bible can be seen at Amazon.  Misquoting Jesus is a good place to start. 

Conclusion: we are all translators of our encounter with reality!  Is your “version” making sense for you today?

NOTE: Here’s a link to a translating project I did,  gathering together the ethical teachings of Jesus, including the “sermon on the mount”.  And here’s a more recent link to a book about Thomas Jefferson’s pursuit of the ethical teachings of Jesus.


Here's lookin'at you, kid.

Here’s looking at you, kid.

Sermon from MOUNT LEVEL plateau  :  blending the essential reports of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, into a single account of these core ethics teachings of Jesus (“the Sermon”).  Translated from Greek periphrastically, reading between the lines.  Don’t let your spiritual life go flat!   (NB: I was not aware at the time of rendering this blogpost that Leo Tolstoy published his effort in this vein, titled The Gospel in Brief, which Ludwig Wittgenstein carried with him everywhere in the trenches of World War one.)

Jesus came down to the shore of a lake with his students, to speak to a large crowd, inviting anyone far & wide — up, to listen and to be healed.  Each member of the gathering pressed to touch him, for they sensed they were consumed with their own distractions, needing whatever it was he had – feeling by it they could attain to their true potential – and noticing a powerful peace enveloping them.  He got into a boat, pushed off a bit, and settled into his peaceable kingdom, beholding his subjects – to address them freely, summoning their attention in order to share his dominion – saying :   

[The Beatitudes :  An inverted kingdom of beautiful attitudes]

Divinely happy are you – powerless.  For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to the powerless!

Divinely happy are the sad!  (?)   Be encouraged that comfort beckons from within, – closer than your very own breath. Laugh, even!

Divinely happy you, starving.  Yet real satisfaction (manna!) is right within you.

Divinely happy are those who claim nothing as their own; they shall receive graciously, and go gently.

Divinely happy are the helpful, for they shall be helped.

Divinely happy are you who are purified from desire, by fire. Right now you have opportunity to behold your own true Nature.

Divinely happy are you utterly-dependent children-of-God  — as you resemble the peacefulness of your Father.

Divinely happy are those who are driven away, tossed out, rejected – for all of heaven is their home. 

Divinely happy are you when you are hated, insulted, abused, falsely accused for My sake.  Celebrate! – and be deeply grateful, as your reward is now, heavenly – for I count you precious, along with the prophets who testified before you, who were also abused.  You needn’t be ashamed, with Me! 

Divinely happy you, who are the spice of the domain. However, if seasoning is either excessive, or withheld, it spoils the flavor of the dish, rendering it unappetizing.

Divinely happy you, an elegant portal thru which light passes to the inhabitants of a hilltop community — light which can neither be obstructed, nor overlooked.  ¶  Nobody would hide a lamp beneath a tub – but rather, position it centrally, to shine for the entire household.  So, let your (our!) light shine for everyone, enabling them to notice the beauty of The Source, as reflected by your beautiful attitude.

Divinely happy are your smilin’eyes for they see Me (Us!) everywhere they look.

Divinely happy are those who hear the words of God, and honor them.

Divinely happy are my slaves [*see comment section] who are alert, watching for Me, your Master, coming to serve you a meal which you’ll never forget – and it’s always on the house!

Divinely happy are those who come in my Name, my Nature.

So come!– you who are awakening into divine delight – come to the blessing offered by Our Father, receiving the Kingdom prepared for Us, which is already here since before the world was impregnated.  We can live large together, as family!

But don’t suppose I’ve come to dismantle the Teachings [of Moses] and the prophets.   (Such would-be dismantlers ruin their calling, for I tell you truly that heaven and earth would perish before the Teachings could ever be dismantled.) Instead, I’ve come to bring even the tiniest details of those Teachings fully alive.  Let’s be clear: adhering to basic teaching and learning has benefits in God’s kingdom, inviting us higher.

However, unless your integrity surpasses that of many legalistic church folk or grandstanding do-gooders, your warfare with yourself to attain that inner kingdom could fail, due to misinterpretation.  Yes, we’re acquainted with the teaching prohibiting murder, but if we lose our peace, becoming angry towards brother or neighbor, we invite crisis.  Worse yet if we announce our anger loudly, calling someone thoughtless – which will surely invite public scrutiny of both parties.  But denouncing someone as a moral slob taints you with the same smoldering stench of which you complain.  So, when approaching the altar to make an atoning sacrifice for words or thoughts at large, first we should re-think our differences, and make amends.  Then a gift is acceptable, and receivable.

And we’ve all heard the instruction of the ancients, that we’re not to cheat on God or spouse, but I tell you merely imagining idolizing, cheating, is equally wrong.

   BEWARE, ‘WOE’.  The Greek translated woe sounds like why in English.  KJV translates it alas; it means weariness, grief, pitiable, awful.

Why?  You sold out so soon, getting rich quick, when you could have had so much more!  Why did you fill up on junk instead of favoring real nourishment?  Why have you built your own reputation rather than Mine?

¿ Got woe?  It’s not too late, if you are willing to listen.  Love those who are hostile towards you, pray for those who damn you, and respond gently to those who abuse you, injuring your jaw — but before turning your other cheek to that guy, see My happy blessings within them, welcoming My response thru them, thus recognizing everyone as a child of our heavenly Father – as this is The Way our Father’s children walk.  If you love only those who love you back, that’s merely mutual taxation.

Don’t hurl your pearls of wisdom at cynics — instead, wait in faith, trusting they’ll come back to ask you about divine happiness.  The sun rises on all Father’s children, and rain falls on all, as well.  So grow into the full maturity of your Designer genes!

Don’t delay clarification with those with whom you disagree, lest they misjudge you, resulting in further condemnation of you by others, impacting your liberty.  Simply be clear that you can’t redeem yourself, trusting God to clear everything.

Give yourself away unreservedly, trustingly, considering you’ve received Me freely.  (Trust never fails!)  Compassion is a most honorable economic system. Generosity anticipates the true need, doing as would do.

But woe to you churchy-legalists, hypocrites, who flog others with my words.  ¿Weary of being criticized?  ¡Stop judging! Blurting out your failure to recognize Me in others is embarrassing. Tend to your own practice.  Peer into the sacred mirror to extract the rafter from your own eye so your vision may be clear enough to remove a fleck of sawdust from the eye of a neighbor [thus becoming an ear-eye-nose-throat specialist, for Us.]…    

Jesus proceeded next to evict an afflicting spirit-of-voicelessness from someone in the crowd.  Suddenly that person could both speak and hear.  A woman exclaimed “satisfied is the womb that carried you, and the breasts that nursed you.”  He countered by saying “satisfied are you who hear the word of God, cherishing and illustrating it.” Others weren’t so sure, saying “he removes demons by the chief of demons.” But he refuted that by asking if then all healing was not the working of devilish knowledge, pointing out that those who were teachable could imitate him, learning to do and teach what he was doing and teaching. And then he emphasized that all teaching was from The Father, and about The Father, concluding by saying don’t call anyone rabbi, or father, for our Teacher is Our Father which is in heaven.



AKA the Our-Father, or Lord’s Prayer – different from Jesus praying for us.

Later, noticing Jesus in prayer, one of his disciples requested of him: “Lord, teach us to pray as John-the-baptizer taught his disciples.”  Jesus responded:  Pay close attention now. Simply get quiet, and pray from your secret interior, listening – and longing to meet your obligations, with Father’s help.  [We all have a rich Daddy!]  Don’t hesitate or sputter.  Don’t merely repeat flowery words, “reminding” God to bless your plans.  Your needs are already known (except by you).  Seek to know.  Be direct.  Try this:  

O, Father of us all, Un-Flappable. 

Purify my sense of Our Nature.

Reveal our citizenly duties to your realm.

Remind us that your plan for Earth, today, is as beautiful as Heaven itself.

Sustain us day-by-day with manna appropriate for today — letting go of our shortcomings to the degree we cease keeping score of others.

And guide us past temptation, rescuing us from the peril of rebellion. 

For You, Father, own it all, powerfully bright in glory, as it should be, and is.

(memo: Those who forgive, will be forgiven; but if we neglect to let go of the failures of others, Father will not excuse us until we doget this!)

Ask your Friend persistently, expectantly, sorting needs from wants.  Knock yourself out.  Don’t be timid.  Be familiar!  It’s Father’s nature and compassion to give that most-holy gift to those who ask for the Breath of the Spirit – which we are then able to give back.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  [Relax.] Inspiration, yes, Peace, and Presence forever.  Be.  Hear.  Now.  Alive.  

Another point:  charity is not to be done to impress others, to duck our duty, or to win favors from The Father, who can’t be bribed.  Father sees all, so be real.  And if you need to fast, don’t do so as a performance.  Seek an audience of One, telling nobody. Then invite relocation of your appetite from your belly to your heart. You will find balanced nutrition is your heart’s natural desire. Your spiritual appetite will increase, and your belly’s demands will decrease, as dining daily with Father satisfies like nothing else.  

We become what we seek, so make integrity your ideal, conforming your life to the divine, instead of to pleasure, power, prestige.  What you value will fill your soul.  But if you chase fantasies, they will vanish into nothingness. Pursue pure light rather than mere flickerings, and it will reveal a unified, holy environment surrounding us all.  

We can’t serve two masters — God and worldliness – so don’t!  Serving yourself never works, as your self is an incompetent master, luring you into a tail-chase. Yeah, yeah, details:  food, clothing, shelter, and God knows what else. Really!  So quit burdening yourself with worldly distractions, giving priority instead to what is central, as God knows and shares how to keep it all balanced.  (¿Who do you serve — God, or capital?)  Let God govern your priorities by serving the Father first, sending masterfully-selfish impostors to the unemployment line – and then you will find divine balance. Concerning others, demonstrate your trustworthiness in the smallest of things, and you will be entrusted with larger.   

Quit worrying about tomorrow, as it never comes. It’s always today, and we have plenty of employment dealing with stuff that needs correction right now, today, the only day we will ever have.

A graceful entry requires balance, which takes practice, discipline, persistence – as The Way is narrow, admitting only one at a time.  ( ¡ Can’t make juice without squeezin’grapes ! )  So practice walking uprightly to avoid stumbling into hell, as that road is spacious, ruining many by group-think.  And be alert, as there are phony visionaries along that road who would lure you astray.  Instead, notice behavior which exposes selfish motives.  Sour fruit is detected quickly as unwelcome at the table, being from wild vines which, being separated, are fit only to fire the oven.

Nobody gains access to the kingdom by lip service – by merely speaking My Name as a password.  But those who recognize my presence everywhere-always, awaken to realize holy ground is already beneath their feet.  Yet those who merely talk a good name-game will hear The Owner say “Who are you?  Talk is cheap.  ¡Clean out your locker, slacker!” 

“So, listen up, and work smart: build your life on bedrock instead of on shifting soil, if you don’t want it to collapse into rubble.”  

Those present, who heard his liberating words, [and we, by their referrals] are awe-struck by the demonstrated power of his compelling reasoning, even yet today.


Later, Jesus said to his proteges “Let’s sail to the other side.” He slept aft during the crossing.  Soon a furious storm began to swamp the vessel, and his students awoke him, pleading “Master, don’t you care that we’re all about to choke?”  So he arose, and silenced their alarm, gently pronouncing:  Peace.  Turmoil vanished, replaced by a pervasive calm.  

He then asked What is fear?   Have you no trust?  They were too stunned to respond, asking themselves  ¿ who is this guy, that even a tempestuous sea submits to him ?

[I’ve appended a benediction from Psalm 107 ]    O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.   2  Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom he hath redeemed from the hand of the enemy;  [ . . . ]   28   Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. 29  He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.


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ALSO: I urge you to consider reading a book by Professor Bart Ehrman, titled Misquoting Jesus: the Story Behind Who Changed the Bible, and Why, in which he argues that each of us is an interpreter, whenever we read.