I woke up on Thursday with a horrible knotted something in the base of my spine that hurt so bad I could hardly walk. I spent the whole day in bed and on the futon, in turns, lying on a heating pad, but didn't seem to get much relief. I did get up on Friday to go to work, but was in wretched pain all day. I went out for a walk at one point to get some lunch, about a mile down and a mile back, which seemed to give me a respite of sorts, though I'm not sure I understand the reasons why. Of course it wouldn't have helped at all, if I'd slipped and fallen on the ice like I almost did at one point. I suppose the stretching of the muscles involved in walking is what makes the difference. Anyway, I stayed at work all day on Friday, and actually got quite a bit done. I am highly distractable, and often have a hard time focusing on the job, but when I'm in serious physical pain, it seems that work actually serves to as a kind of analgesic, and that I am able to get more done. Cruel irony, I guess, but such is life.
(I can't remember what I did on Friday night, except for posting Friday Night Videos. It's always a bit'o'fun to peruse YouTube for those posts. If you haven't spent the time to watch, please do. I like to think you'll find something enjoyable to watch.)
On Saturday AM my back was still hurting really bad, but I decided to get up and go out and about - pain or no pain - to do something I've been meaning to do for some time: I took AE with me to visit a Shabbat worship service at a Messianic congregation across the river in Wisconsin. It's a gathering of believers belonging a relatively small movement that has attracted Jewish believers in Yeshua, and Christians who wish to incorporate the Jewish roots of Christianity into their lives. One of the leaders, DT, is an old friend, and it was good to see him and his wife, as well as to worship with them. Their service was a long one, lasting nearly three hours, with a break in the middle, consisting of traditional Jewish prayers and Torah readings, as well as singing led by a cantor in both English and Hebrew, followed by a more traditional sermon expounding on both Old and New Testament teachings. In the afternoon there was a potluck meal in the basement hall, which AE and I were invited to join. The whole thing was an interesting experience, and the group of over a hundred was welcoming and friendly. AE was thrilled that my friend's wife introduced her to their 8 year-old daughter; the two bonded quickly and spent the entire time together.
The Messianic movement has been at times controversial amongst both Christians and Jews.
The Gentile Messianics see themselves as fostering a return to the roots of Christianity, and encourage worship that includes many or all the elements present in the early Jewish church. Certainly they are historically correct in their emphasis on the Jewishness of both Yeshua and his followers. But there was disagreement even in the early church as to how the Gentiles should be folded into the body of believers, and that's not been resolved to this day. It's not clear from the New Testament writings that there is a need for modern followers of Jesus to practice the Jewish rituals, feasts and to use Hebraic liturgy, but the modern worship of Catholics, Protestants and Eastern Orthodox believers has been so thoroughly purged of the flavor of the essential Jewishness of the early church that it's hard for me to say with any conviction that the Messianic movement's return to its roots is entirely wrong, either. While they may not get much support from traditional Christian churches, the most negative thing most Gentile Messianics are likely to experience is being viewed as odd by other believers.
The Jewish Messianics have an additional set of difficulties. They are uniformly rejected by Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jewish branches for their belief in Yeshua as the promised Messiah. Never mind that many of them were born into traditional Jewish homes, and still practice all the ritual life of Judaism. Even atheistic Jews are still considered Jews, by nature of their birth, but on the basis of their belief in Yeshua, the believers are shunned, and not considered to be Jews. In fact, to become a Jewish believer in Yeshua is suffer rejection from one's family and peers. What's more, the traditional Christian church has not usually welcomed such converts, either, and usually strongly encourages them to give up Yom Kippur, Rosh Hoshanna, Passover Seders and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs. It's a difficult road for them.
Anyway, the Messianic movement gives both Gentile and Jewish believers a place to live out their faith. And other than the fact that I was a Hurting Unit all day, visiting this congregation was a nice experience. It was good to see old friends I hadn't seen in well over a dozen years, and also very cool: I sat at a table during lunch with someone I learned had been in a band with a college friend of mine, some 25 years ago. It's a small world, after all.
As I've mentioned elsewhere, the public library system here has a host of great services available to patrons, including free WIFI, Books on Tape and CD, and a massive collection of VHS and DVD movies. I recently checked out a few DVD's, and haven't had the time to watch most of them, but I *have* managed to watch nearly all of 'The Passion Of The Christ.' I say 'managed' not because I can't bring myself to watch the rest, but because I only have had time for that much of it, so far. It's much too difficult to watch with my girls around, as they simply aren't old enough to be able to process that level of violence. And violent it is. But unlike so many reviewers who berated the movie for what was referred to as 'gratuitous gore,' I have found what I've seen of the movie to be moving and compelling. If anything, it made me appreciate for the first time the truly incredible suffering that the Via Dolorosa held for the Carpenter From Galilee.
Additionally, much was made in reviews of the movie's supposed subtext of anti-Semitism, but I did not really see that. Maybe it's that there's hyper-sensitivity on the part of some to the oft-repeated slander that all Members Of The Tribe are somehow collectively responsible for Christ's death, but that argument is fairly easily refuted, and in any case, leaving aside the fact that both the Bible and the movie makes clear that the Yeshua laid down his *own* life as a sacrifice for the many, it's hard for me to see how a movie that holds both the leaders of the Sanhedrin *and* the Roman Procurator responsible for the death of Yeshua as being somehow anti-semitic. Yes, there was dramatic license taken with the story, but it's essentially a faithful re-telling of the Gospel narratives. In any case, I can't speak for anyone else, but viewing the film has not stirred up any latent anti-Semitism in my bosom. All I could think of as I watched was the incredible suffering that the God-Man Yeshua went thru, and the movie has helped me see his final hours in a new light.
Anyway, it's been a slow weekend, and I've gotten very little accomplished. It's hard enough living thru with Minnesota winters, with their short hours of sunlight, but to have to be cooped up indoors is even worse. I've been feeling a bit down - SAD, praps? - and really wanted to get out walking this weekend, to work up a sweat and burn some calories, but on account of my back I just couldn't do it. And this next weekend I'll be on Daddy Duty, which means I really won't get any serious exercise done then, either. Thing is, I really *need* the exercise, and not just for cardio and aerobic benefits. I have long suffered from depressions that seem to come on unexpectedly, triggered by life events or by some unforeseen chain of events. Whether Seasonal Affective Disorder is real or not, I *do* find myself getting more melancholy in the winter, and being able exercise really does help. It's more than just getting out of the house, though that helps too. I really do think there's something to the theory of the Runner's High, where the endorphins kick in and literally alter a person's mood. My knees won't allow me run, but walking is the next best thing.
Interestingly, there have been recent studies done that have compared the efficacy of exercise to medication in adults suffering depressive episodes, and both have been found to have roughly equal outcomes, with the added benefit of fewer relapses in the groups that did only exercise. I've had several episodes of serious depressions - and not all in the distant past - where walking for hours each week quite simply kept me from going utterly mad. I don't respond well to anti-depressant medications, and have found exercise - especially when augmented by a Teaching Company lecture or two - is about the best therapy possible for me.
Of course, with nearly all good, there is bad, too: when I walk alot, it aggravates an old injury I suffered to my left hip, and I then end up in terrible pain because of it, which, in turn, threatens to bring on depression. It's a vicious cycle, and one that I have to imagine I will battle more as I grow older, and become more feeble. It's my hope and prayer that I will remain vital and able to move around well into old age, but there's no such guarantee in life. If my hip continues to deteriorate I may have to resort to using a stationary bike or something similar, but I really dislike using those things. (And yes, I have consulted with docs about my hip. They've even done MRI's and found nothing treatable. Meh.)