Understanding Religion 101

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This page is going to be reserved for my make-shift  lesson plans if I were to teach a specific topic.  They will include a name of the class, a schedule (either 8, 10 or 12 or full school year week plan since I want college or private school and these are the typical schedules.) All you “teachers” out there are welcome to provide input, suggestions, ideas and who knows…maybe one day i’ll actually get to teach these things. 

First up!??? — Coming soon ūüôā

For a long time I have wanted to teach a class on “basic” religion.  I feel disappointed that the first interaction kids have with religion is typically in college and by then they have already begun to form their opinions without even attempting to under what religion is, how it works in society (both anthropologically, sociologically and personally.) A part of me wants to think that with an understanding knowledge of religions and how they operate, it may be possible to teach people to respect and interact with different religions even if they are different from their own.  [hint hint, he’s my objective]  Of course this class would probably never make it to the public sector (i will keep fantasizing)… but I can see it being a part of a private curriculum or part of a home-school program.  I want to emphasis some else up front : This class would NOT be an understanding of a particular faith.  It would incorporate religious material only if was important for understanding the canonicity or basic structure of the faith.  It would NOT, i repeat NOT be a direct means of missionary work or evangelism.

So, here is goes:

Week 1: Introduction to religion
   What is religion? What is its place in society? Discuss religions of people in class, what they know about other religions.  Review what religions will be discussed in class.
  Read introduction to at least 2 different texts (one on an anthropological/sociological level and another on a “world religions” textbook type level.)

Week 2: Pre-History Religion
  review of early civilization religions, such as mesopatamia, africa, egypt, dip into greek & roman (trying to stay chronological but its hard when its easier to relate religions than go in order of appearance.) DEFINITELY read Gilgamesh, the Creation Story from Mesopatamia, an African and Egyptian story.  Possible book review on a Greek/Roman god (there are thousands of these to choose from.)

Week 3: Major world religions-week1
Looking at basic beliefs, difference within the faith (orthodox, conservation, reformed & messianic)
Discussion groups or group presentations on one of these groups.
Readings–biblical readings discussing the nature of the nation of Israel, possible rabbinical readings

Week 4: major world religions- week 2
all “major world religions” will have a similar set up. Looking at basic beliefs, divisions within the faith,  locale of the religion and have discussion groups or presentations on subjects discussed.  Right now off the top of my head I admittedly do not know much about this group but I know where to find my resources if I had to teach.
readings: (dang it cannot remember names) but the major readings used in everyday prayer time.  Also, individual project is to locate a modern book review of a Hindui believer (there is some of this in Eat, Pray, Love but I would be looking for something more directly related to religious academia.

Week 5: major world religions – week 3
  Christianity–similar set up as previous.  readings may include biblical but most likely early christian writers such as the Nicene Creed, Tertullian, early church fathers.  Also, possibly a modern reader.  no project for this depending on the studen population because if taught in America, many people already have exposure to this religion.  However, would be willing to change if, per se, I was teaching in a setting where children were more exposed to Jewish teachings, then I would remove the project there.

Week 6: major world religions-week 4
review of beliefs, locale & history & sects.  Readings include parts of Quran & any other “belief” documentation as well as a modern writer discussing Isalmic beliefs.

Week 7: major world religions – week 5
Buddhism and other Asian religions
  review of belief, locale, history & sects. Readings include Tao de Ching, a basic history of the Budha & some sort of arts project mostly because this religion can have multiple interpretations artistically speaking.

Week 8: Religion in modern times
  review of modern religions such as Mormonism, Scientology, “New Age.” Review of similarities, discussion of what constitutes a religious structure.  Readings: Book of Mormon, Scientology belief book.

Week 9: Religion in Society
  Discussion of what religion looks like in society, discussion about how wars are started over beliefs, look at the middle east conflict, the asian conflict.  Read such things as “weathered by miracles” or review people like Ghandi.  Possible room for biography, 1-2 pages on figure that has made an impact but has religious ties (possible Mitt Romney, Ghandi, Mother Teresa and even Bin Laden as all religious impact is not positive.)

Week 10: Group Presentations:
  I honestly think there should be some way to incorporate what was discussed & have groups put together some review of religion.  Or look at a unique religion that no one in the group practices & present it to the class.  Or maybe even create a religion, based on the definition discussed on the first week of class (spaghetti monster-type reference here appropriate) and have them present it to the class.

Any final? the final project would be to take the created religion and discuss it intellectually.  Possibly write a paper on the religion with the group presentation as a supplement.  Or have the last week be review & discussion so that a final can incorporate multiple choice, short answer and essay questions
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Geez… i would want to take this class but that’s a lot of work.  I guess it always is better to have all your ideas together in one basket so you can pick the best ones for the time.  And variety for a class I think is important because it helps reduce cheating as well as promote curiosity.  Just sayin’

Word of the Week

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So in hopes to expand my blog, I decided I wanted to start a “word of week” portion of my blog. ¬†I love languages, especially the Biblical ones and I enjoy even more some of the history and meanings of words in other languages. So I decided to provide a weekly word section where I will look at the meaning of a word in another language and expand on its, well, “importance.” ūüôā

Word of the Week

ty‚ĄĘIva√©rV;b ¬† ¬† ¬†¬†br’shit

What word would be more fitting as a beginning than the word for “beginning?”¬†B’resheet¬†is the first word of the first book of the Bible and in the Jewish community the title of the book we English-speakers know as Genesis. ¬†And rightly so, because the word comes from a similar root word in Hebrew that means “head” or “chief.” ¬†(See Brown Driver Briggs Lexicon p 911-12.) ¬†B’resheet¬†in its Genesis 1:1 context has a distinct meaning, as it carries a prefix (B’)¬†that indicates “in, with or by.” something. ¬†The¬†actual¬†noun is¬†resheet¬†which refers to “beginning” or “chief.”¬†

If one would continue in the Lexicon you can see the other times this words appears in the Bible it is always associated with the beginning of something new & amazing.  For example, the beginning of a new kingdom (Gen 10:10) as well as the beginning of creation.  It also is associated with the first fruits in Exodus 23:19 and even the first chief in Amos 6:1.  

The similar root is the word meaning chief or head, which includes a meaning of “beginning” of time located in my favorite chapter Isaiah 40:21.¬†

I think if we were to remember this word when we coming across it in the Bible, it is important to remember its significance in that it is not just a beginning of a new chapter … it truly means a new context. ¬†either a new world, a new kingdom, a new person. ¬†And so let the new chapter of this blog, well BEGIN!

Creation Interact

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Though I consider myself a very sociable person with the human side… I talk to my dogs a lot. ¬†In fact, I have theological conversations if they are hanging around when I’m studying or I need an “audience” to practice a sermon. ¬†Yes, I have asked both my dogs if they know Jesus. It gives me a nice laugh (especially their facial expression of “do you really have to ask me that…”)

So this got me thinking. ¬†We as believers need to interact with God’s creation more. ¬†Now I don’t necessarily mean talking to your dogs or fish or plants (even though there are tons of articles and philosophies about talking to plant life.) But I do mean going outside more, taking a moment to be thankful of the Creator that not only has created everything around but also given us as humans the responsibility to take care of it. ¬†Sometimes I think as humans we take advantage of this. ¬†We abuse our creation every day and sometimes don’t even take a second to acknowledge the blessings God has given use through His creation.

And that’s why I have dogs…that’s what my dogs remind me of. ¬†They remind me of God. ¬†They remind me to be thankful (they are rescues) and to be happy even for the smallest things of coming through the front door and being home among family. ¬†To be happy about even the simplest food….and to enjoy EVERY toy!

A Slight of Hand, A Twist of Fate

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Tonight Shawn and I saw “Now You See Me“- a movie about 4 magicians who preform awe-inspiring tricks that end up getting attention of the FBI. ¬†(on a movie review note–you should go see it.) As a courtesy I will not spoil any of the movie but it got me thinking. ¬†About God & Magic. About the analogies and similarities and the people I know who love magic yet have the strongest faith in God. And when I get to thinking… I have started coming to my blog…

Some things to think about:
My brother, who is an amazing pastor, worked as a magician and still does the little tricks for his kids.
I have another friend who was is into magic yet is a strong believer in Christ.
Several fundamentalist shun magic stating it is affiliated with the devil.
Many people think of God as the Head Magician… “conning” people into believe some great giant trick.

So let’s look at some positives of magic & God/faith.
Magic is meant to entertain, deceive and to inspire curiosity. ¬†According to the movie it gives people a little bit of hope beyond what they can see. (again, go see the movie…) In working with religion and God. ¬†God is the source of faith, He is what is beyond what you can see. ¬†And maybe not to entertain for financial gain, I would arguably says God is definitely here to inspire. ¬†And (in a more blunt way) He is deceiving as the few things that we can see of Him are only a spark of what is to come–much like magic.
Another movie about magic, The Prestige, refers to 3 elements of an illusion–the pledge, the turn & the prestige. ¬†It’s the presentation of something ordinary, the change of the ordinary object into something extraordinary and the final presentation of the extraordinary proof. ¬†(See¬†QuoteFromTheMovie) ¬†God can do these three things… God creates the ordinary, makes it extraordinary and then spends His time presenting the prestige to the world…. this can apply to every human including the Son of Man, Jesus Christ.

Just remember though–magic has bad elements and can lead to a belief in hocus pocus spells or an imaginative reality that leads to emptiness or lack of stability. ¬†Or even worse–bad spirituality (aka demons, “black…”) ¬†Remember that God is alive, in control, created reality and has come down to be with those He loves the most-humanity-through Christ. ¬†And remember that magic, though sometimes simply an illusion, can inspire that little bit of hope for a happier world through Him who Is.

Question Marks to the World

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On the way home today I saw a vehicle with “believe in coexistence” sticker.  It goes along with the “coexist” and “tolerance” stickers that I have seen on several vehicles.  And whenever I see these, I get this upset feeling that the platform that tries to push these titles are usually people looking for everyone to side with them.

Tolerance– tolerance is NOT the same as love. In face, love is much more powerful and engaging than tolerance.  Love thinks of the other, speaks truth and kindness and peace.  Not just acceptance and knowledge.  I remember one time in church my pastor stated ‘would you tolerate your spouse or your children?’ or would you say  so and so “I tolerate you”? I know I wouldn’t. I would not say to Shawn– “I tolerate you and your views.” So why would I want to be tolerant? I’d rather love… and so it gets me upset every time i see the sticker.

 Then there’s Co-Existence.  I’m not sure this describes this either.  this doesn’t talk about engagement or interaction.  It just talks about “existing.” I know i don’t want to just exist.  I want to be alive.  And I am thankful that my life comes from the Ultimately Living One but I will glad live with others who are living as well.  Not just existing.  I’d rather live in love than co-exist in tolerance.

Just something to think about … next time you’re driving ūüôā

Little less than Perfect.

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Today I was reminded of a very important fact– that we as humans are not perfect.  We have issues,  problems, events that change the course of our lives.  And they cause us to make mistakes, act differently than typical– do crazy things.  Remember the time as a child you realized your parents didn’t know everything? I distinctly do…I was discussing with my brother the decisions my mother was making about her health and thought how illogical they sounded despite her ever-present to be “logical.” That’s when my brother indicated to me “you know, mom isn’t right about everything..”  Basically its another way of saying start thinking for yourself but its always a self-reflection sometimes.  Sorry to burst your bubble parents but I don’t think we’re ever called to portray perfected life…so why lay out an expectation for your kids that you can do no wrong? Anyways…
Today this fact caused me to ponder on the biblical view of those we are called to imitate in faith from Biblical-lore.  (Hebrews 11 if you need an example.) Hardly any of them were perfect. In fact, in a class about the prophets recently we discussed how Samson is included in the description of the faithful when he was self-centered and lacked maturity.  David,  despite his sleeping around, killing off husbands who didn’t do what he wanted and huge lack of responsibility– He is highly honored in the Jewish community, regarded as a king “after God’s own heart” and is constantly used in reference to Jesus (a.k.a Son of David) and in his lineage.  (listen to the older christmas songs…)
What does this tell us about God? (yes, everything is a theological question to me)
What does this tell us about who we are? And Who God is working/making/made us to be?
1) We are NOT perfect and we are therefore NOT God. 
2) God still accepts and loves us despite this reality. 
3) We can still be present before God despite our imperfection.
Think again back to Genesis (people should really spend more time in this book–its just JAMMED with things to learn) — even after Adam and Eve disobeyed God, God felt for them along with providing them with what they needed (clothing.)  And though He banished them from the Garden, it was the consequences of their actions.  
Advise?– Don’t let your perfections, either of you or your parents, let you down. 

Careful–you may become Domesticated…

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Since my marriage… I have been spending a lot of time pondering on what my role as a married woman should be.  I see so many women who have either left off the married part or disregarded their individuality that I know I wanted to make sure I confirmed my definition of who I am and learn to stick to it.  I also wanted to make sure I kept my own identity as Sara, child of God along with the title as “Mrs.” — its what I committed to when I married Shawn.  And until recently, I thought this meant NEVER (and i truly mean never) becoming the domesticated woman.  
However, over the last few weeks, things have started to “change” per se, and I have done things like laundry for both of us, cooked dinner frequently (Shawn had to remind me of this last night since we have spent the last week only going out twice and had not even paid for a meal gratefully.)  I have realized it is my nature, without dispute or anger, to want to do things around the house. By definition, i have truly become “helpful”for Shawn.  I know this will not last all the time, or forever, but in my vows I know I committed to at least put Shawn first, love him and walk through life with him. So it got me thinking…
God created woman to be the helper of man.  Not meaning man would do nothing and woman does everything (probably close to the modern picture above…) Just being helpful where I can.  For me, ironically, this meant sharing my love for cooking (i love doing anything in the kitchen, especially baking and love trying new things.) It also means taking care of myself (doing laundry is a necessity as we need clean clothes–and since both of us needed this I didn’t feel burdened to do this.) And as I said–last night Shawn mentioned I had cooked everything all day, that he appreicated that, and recommended that I just pick up something on the way home from dropping off my friends.  I thought–WOW! I’m so glad I married this guy (i’ve been saying this a lot, which is comforting to me since I was extremely nervous of making my life-long commitment to another human [God is easy–God is God.] 
I am called now to be a married woman, to help my husband where he needs and to still keep true to the identity and self that God has created me to be.  I am not called to be any less than this.  I am not called to slave away and fulfill my husband’s every wish without considering what I want.  I think this is what kind of picture Genesis was meant to provide.  That the couple together as one support each other, are equally joined who God created them to be, separate individuals joined as one to equally support and love one another in their journeys with God and with each other.  
Genesis 2:7-8;18-25  Then the LORD God formed man of adust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and bman became a living 1being.  8 And the LORD God planted a agarden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed…18-Then the LORD God said, ‚ÄúIt is not good for the man to be alone; aI will make him a helper 1suitable for him.‚ÄĚ  19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the 1sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name.  20 And the man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the 1sky, and to every beast of the field, but for 2Adam there was not found a helper 3suitable for him.  21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place.  22 And the LORD God 1fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man.  23 And the man said,
“aThis is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because 1she was taken out of Man.‚ÄĚ 
24 For this cause a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.  25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

I pray that every married woman can at least strive to be the woman God created them to be.  And may the same be for their spouses who have the same demand from Genesis, from God. Yay for being married! — I pray that everyone who is married can keep this shout of joy within their hearts year-round.