“The Condensed Gospel” is now available!

Cover of book

My latest book, “The Condensed Gospel” is now available from Amazon in print and e-book. It is the Gospel story, in order, as one story, with no repetition. It is designed to be the most accessible rendition of the message and life of Jesus ever yet produced.

Here is a link to the print version


And here is a link to the e-book version


I have them at the lowest price that Amazon will allow me to sell them.

Harvest from Mercy Convent retreat, November 15th 2015

The theme of the retreat was “Autumn: A Season of New Beginnings”. The Bible reading was Mark 4:1-20 and 30-32. These are the Parables of the Sower and the Mustard Seed. Here’s my Condensed Gospel version of them:

The parable of the sower

Jesus was again teaching beside the sea. He decided to teach while sitting in a boat in the water because a large crowd had gathered around him. The crowd stood on the shore to listen to him. They had come to hear him from every town.

He taught them many things using parables, including this one: “Think about the person who went out to sow his field. While he was sowing, some seeds fell along the path and birds came and ate it. Other seeds fell where there were more rocks then soil. The seed sprang up quickly, but then withered just as quickly in the sun because it didn’t have deep roots to gather moisture. Other seeds fell among the thorn bushes and the thorns made it impossible for them to produce a crop. Yet other seeds fell on good ground and were able to produce 30, 60, even 100 times what was sown. Anyone who has ears should listen to this!”

MT 13:1-9, MK 4:1-9, LK 8:4-8

When Jesus was alone with his disciples, they came up and said to him “Why do you speak to people in parables? What does the parable of the sower mean?”
Jesus answered them “The mystery of the kingdom of God has been revealed to you but not to everyone. For them the information is transmitted in parables so that Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled. It says ‘They may listen but never understand, and they may look and never see. For people’s hearts have grown hard and their ears have grown deaf, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they might see, hear, and then understand and turn back, and I would heal them.'”

MT 13:10-15, MK 4:10-12, LK 8:9-10

Jesus said “Do you not understand this parable? Then how are you going to be able to understand any of them? The seed is the word of God. The sower is the one who shares it with others. The people along the path are those who have heard the message about the kingdom and don’t understand it. Satan has snatched away the words that were sown in their hearts so they would not believe and be saved.”

“As for the seed sown on rocky ground, this represents the people who hear the word and immediately receive it joyfully. However, because they are not rooted in their faith, they believe for a little while but stumble when troubles come because of the word.”

“Regarding the seed sown among thorns, these are the people who hear the word but are distracted and paralyzed by worry and greed, and the word is not able to take root in them and produce any fruit.”

“But the seed sown on good ground represents the people who hear the word with honest and open hearts. They understand it, welcome it, and through endurance are able to bear much fruit, even up to 100 times what was sown.”

MT 13:18-24, MK 4:13-20, LK 8:11-15

The parable of the mustard seed

“How can I explain what the kingdom of God is like? What can I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed sown in the ground. It is smaller than any other seed, but when grown, it is a huge tree, taller than any plant in the garden. It becomes a tree big enough for birds to make nests in its large branches.”

MT 13:31-32, MK 4:30-32, LK 13:18-19

I’d never thought of Autumn as a time of new beginnings. To me, it was always seen as a sign of endings. It is harvest time, a time of wrapping up, of preparing against the winter that is to come. It is a beautiful time, but short-lived, and leads to a time of sparseness and lack. It is hard to fully enjoy the glory of Autumn knowing that the trees will soon be bare and ice and snow are coming.

But I like this new idea that was offered at the retreat – think of Autumn as a time to sow seeds. They have to be planted in the ground in Autumn, and rest quietly underground in darkness, in silence, unseen, in order to grow into what they are to become.

The poet Mary Oliver said “Is it not incredible that in an acorn something has hidden an entire tree?”

I saw a church sign recently that said “We can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.”

Seeds are powerful things to think about.

It is also a gift to be invited to see old things in new ways.

My Mom gave me shiny pennies. My Dad gave me leaves. I’m grateful that they gave me simple things to remember them by. But interestingly, these things are both brown. I’ve been drawn to brown for a few months now, sketching with it, writing with it, painting with it, making jewelry with it. Different shades of brown – chocolate, caramel, sepia, café au lait.

I’ve been meditating on the fact that Dad was red-green color blind, so most of the time he saw nature as brown. The army green that I wear as my neutral color these days would have been brown to him. Autumn was his favorite time of the year because he could finally see colors.

While at the retreat I made some art to think about him and how he saw the Autumn world, the time when he was happiest. This is the first one I made. It is 7” x 10”.

Dad collage at Mercy 1

I was going to make a simple one on a 4 x 6 index card, but I couldn’t find them in the craft supplies so I decided to work bigger instead. I’m glad I did.

I had some leftover materials so I made a second one. They work perfectly together. It is hard to see that here, and I don’t have a larger scanner. You could click on the pictures, print them out, and put them together to see what I mean.

Dad collage at Mercy 2

While making these pieces I had quite a bit of understanding and peace come over me concerning my parents. I’m grateful I took the time to make this art, and also grateful that I was in the craft room alone so I could cry a little.

One thing I’m coming to understand is that there is great beauty in just allowing experiences to be what they are without defining them. I’m also learning that life is richer if it is a blend of things – for instance, happy/sad/wistful/grieving/hopeful is a valid feeling, even though we don’t have a word for it. Just like with Autumn leaves, they are more beautiful if they are a range of colors – reds, greens, yellow, orange, brown – all on the same tree, and often on the same leaf.

It was a gift from my Dad’s spirit that when we happened to take his ashes to scatter, it was the peak of Autumn in the mountains. This is where I sat to disperse his ashes, some 20 years after he had died.

GM 10 2015 a

GM 10 2015 c

GM 10 2015 d

GM 10 2015 e

GM 102015 b

You know where you stand with Autumn.
Not tall, not short.
But between.
Between life and death,
awakening and slumber,
the present and the future,
the known and the unknown.
Autumn is a time of harvests, of reaping
yet also sowing, of planting.
Hardy bulbs planted now sleep deeply,
hibernate like mother bears,
deep underground,
in darkness,
in silence,
in stillness.
Both awake in spring,
with flowers, with cubs,
new growth, new life
out of that stillness,
that silence,
that darkness.

We too are called into that cave, that tomb, that dark earth into the death and resurrection of Jesus.

We too are called into quiet, into stillness, so the seeds that God has planted within us can grow.

Be Alert! (readings from the Gospels on mindfulness)

“As regards to exactly when the Day of Judgment will happen, no one knows, not angels, not the Son. Only the Father knows.”

MT 24:36, MK 13:32

“That time will be just like it was in the time of Noah and the flood. Right until the flood happened, people went on like they always had, eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, right up until the day Noah boarded the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all, sweeping away all their possessions. They didn’t know what was going to happen to them until it happened.”

MT 24:37-39a, LK 17: 26-27

“Just like it was in Lot’s time, people went on with their normal lives, doing all the usual things they always did. But right after Lot left Sodom, the whole town was destroyed by a rain of fire and sulfur from heaven. It will be just as sudden and surprising as that was to them when the Son of Man is revealed.”

LK 17:28-30

“When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing in the holy place, which was spoken of by the prophet Daniel (let the reader take note of this) then everyone in Judea must flee to the mountains. When you see that Jerusalem is surrounded by armies, know that it is time for its destruction. When that happens, a man standing on his roof must not come down to get anything out of his house. Also a man out in the fields should not return home to get his clothing. Those inside Jerusalem must escape, and those in the country must not enter the city because the days of vengeance have come to fulfill all the prophecies.”

MT 24:15-18, MK 13:14-16, LK 17:31, LK 21:20-22

“Remember what happened to Lot’s wife!”

LK 17:32

“It will be very hard for women who are pregnant or nursing when this happens. Pray that you won’t have to escape in winter or on the Sabbath. For this will be a time of great trouble and stress, unlike anything that has happened since the creation of this world until now, and will never happen again! No one would survive that time if God didn’t limit those days, but he did limit them for the sake of those he chose. They will be cut down by swords and taken captive into all the nations, and the nations will trample Jerusalem until the end of that era.”

MT 24:19-22, MK 13:17-20, LK 21:24

“The coming of the Son of Man will be like this – two men will be in the field. One will disappear, and the other will remain. Two women will be grinding grain at the mill. One will disappear, and one will remain. Two people will be together in a bed. One will disappear, and the other will remain. Therefore, be on guard, because you don’t know when your Lord is coming.”

MT 24:39b-42, LK 17:34-36

His disciples asked “Where, Lord?”
Jesus answered “The vultures will gather around the corpses.”

LK 17:37, MT 24:28

“Be ready to work and make sure your lamps are lit. You must be like servants waiting for their master to come back from the wedding banquet so they can immediately open the door for him when he knocks. The servants who are alert when he arrives will be blessed. Mark my words – he will prepare himself, have them sit at the table, and come serve them himself. If he arrives in the middle of the night or near dawn and finds them waiting for him, they will be blessed.”

LK 12:35-38

“Know this – if the homeowner had known exactly when the thief was going to break into his house, he would have stayed at home and stayed awake so he could prevent his house from being robbed. You need to be ready in the same way, because the Son of Man will appear when you least expect it to happen.”

MT 24:43-44, LK 12:39-40

“Watch! Be alert and pray! You have no idea when it will happen. It is like a man who went on a journey and left his house in the hands of his servants. He left tasks for each of them and ordered the doorkeeper to keep watch. Be alert then, because you don’t know when the master will return – it could be any time of the day or night. If you aren’t alert, he could suddenly arrive and find you asleep. I say to you and to everyone: Be alert!”

MK 13:33-37

“The kingdom of heaven is like ten bridesmaids who went out to meet the groom with their lamps. Only half of them were wise and took oil with them. The groom took a while in coming and all the bridesmaids fell asleep. They were suddenly awoken by a shout from someone announcing that the groom was coming. All the bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The ones who hadn’t prepared asked the others for oil because their lamps were going out. The ones who had prepared said ‘No, because there won’t be enough for all of us if we give you any.’ They told them to go buy more oil for themselves. While they were gone, the groom showed up and only the bridesmaids who had prepared were able to go with him to the wedding feast. The door was locked after them. When the rest of the bridesmaids arrived, they asked to be let in. The groom refused to open the door, saying ‘I don’t know you!’ Therefore, always be ready, because you don’t know the hour or the day.”

MT 25:1-13

(All words are my own paraphrases of the Gospel. Due to copyright restrictions, I’ve had to reword everything. I had originally posted this separately as part of the Condensed Gospel project. While attempting to sort the stories in order and make sure I had everything from the Gospels included in the right places, I felt that I’d over-condensed a part of this section. While one of my goals is to have no repetition in the Condensed Gospel, another one is to have everything included in a very readable way. Sometimes both goals cannot be achieved in the same section, because there will be too many threads unwoven and rewoven together. This second version is the compromise.)

Oh no! Not religion!

We live in a time where when people read that Gandhi said “We should forgive our enemies,” they say “Aww, that’s beautiful!”

Then when they read that Buddha said “We should forgive our enemies,” they say “Wow, that’s so deep!”

But then when they read that Jesus said “We should forgive our enemies,” they say “Oh no religion!” and they recoil away in horror.

It is the same message. So what is the difference?

We live in a time where people say they are spiritual but not religious because they don’t like religion. I get that. I don’t like religion either. I don’t trust it. I walked away from organized religion two years ago while I was in the deacon discernment process. But this doesn’t mean that I’ve walked away from Jesus.

I feel so sad that the message of Jesus – one of love and compassion and service to others – has gotten mangled by power-hungry people. The ironic thing is that the very things that are difficult to stomach about Christianity are the very things that Jesus came to do away with.

Jesus didn’t want us to spend our money on houses of worship. He wanted us to spend our money on houses for the poor.

Jesus didn’t want us to have anyone over us but God. He was opposed to any divisions of lay and ordained, of any hierarchy. He wanted us to all be equal, like brothers.

Would it be better to just spread the message and not attach it to the speaker? Yet I feel that it is important for people to go deeper and read the words of Jesus for themselves, and they can’t do that if they don’t know the source.

I spend so much time doing damage control among my friends on Facebook – separating the wheat from the chaff in the messages there. The damaging and dividing messages that are attributed to Jesus aren’t from him at all. They are from Paul or other early leaders in the church.

People will check internet rumors on Snopes to see if something is true or not, but they won’t do the same thing with the messages that are attributed to Jesus. They won’t check it out for themselves – and they are falling for lies and being mislead.

It is fine for people to reject Jesus – that is their right. But if they do – I want them to actually have read the words of Jesus before they do it, and not some watered-down, second-generation version of the message. Go straight to the source. Read what Jesus had to say in the Gospels. If you want a slightly easier way, where the Gospels are merged into one coherent message, story by story, check out my section here called “Condensed Gospel”. It isn’t finished yet, but there is a lot there already.

Don’t confuse Jesus with Christianity. He wouldn’t.

Thoughts on disciples and apostles

So when did Jesus choose his disciples? The Gospels agree it was early on in his ministry, they just don’t agree on when. Did they all get called at the same time? Who was there? Not all things occur in each Gospel, or at the same time.

It is easy to understand how confusing this is because the early followers of Jesus didn’t think they needed to write anything down. They thought Jesus was coming back soon. When time passed, they realized that it was important to write the stories down so that they wouldn’t forget them, and they would be better able to share the stories with others.

This slightly haphazard telling of the stories in four different accounts makes for a difficult time if one is trying to assemble a linear progression of events, like I am.

In the Gospel of Matthew 4:18-22 we read this account of the first disciples –

18 As He was walking along the Sea of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. 19 “Follow Me,” He told them, “and I will make you fish for[j] people!”20 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 21 Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They were in a boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and He called them. 22 Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.

Simon (later named Peter by Jesus) and his brother Andrew are together. They are called, and then shortly after Jesus calls James and John (the sons of Zebedee), who are in a separate boat a little further along. Are Simon and Andrew on a boat here? It doesn’t say. They could be fishing just using nets while standing on the shore.

It isn’t until MT 9:9 that we get the name of the next disciple – Matthew (sometimes called Levi). Meanwhile, Jesus has delivered the Sermon on the Mount and traveled across the sea with his disciples. We aren’t told how many, so presumably it is just the four that are named up to that point.
However, there is some distinction to be made between “disciple” and “apostle”. “Disciple” could simply mean “student” – not one of The Twelve that are famous. Of course, Jesus didn’t use these words – he used Aramaic, so there might be a huge difference in the words used by him. But I find it significant that two different words are used.

It is in Matthew 10 that we get a complete list, and they are termed apostles at this point. This is MT 10:1-4. Some more people have appeared on the scene, but we don’t get the story of how they met or when they were called.
“Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every[a] disease and sickness.2 These are the names of the 12 apostles: First, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother;
James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother;3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him”

Now let us look at the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus calls his first disciples after his Baptism and Temptation, just like in Matthew. MK 1:16-20
“16 As He was passing along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen. 17 “Follow Me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in their boat mending their nets. 20 Immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Him.”

The story is the same as in Matthew – he calls Simon (Peter) and Andrew at the same time, and then a little further along the shore, he calls James and John. Here too we don’t know if Simon and Andrew were in a boat.

In both Matthew and Mark, it appears that Jesus is doing a “cold call” – he’s never seen any of these men before. He calls them to follow him and they drop everything to do so.

The disciple Matthew is called in Mark 2:13-14. In Mark 3:13-19, the rest of the disciples are called.
“13 Then He went up the mountain and summoned those He wanted, and they came to Him. 14 He also appointed 12—He also named them apostles -to be with Him, to send them out to preach, 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 He appointed the Twelve:To Simon, He gave the name Peter;
17 and to James the son of Zebedee, and to his brother John, He gave the name “Boanerges” (that is, “Sons of Thunder”); 18 Andrew; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.”

Notice here too that they just simply seem to be there – he summoned them to him. Were they following him all along, and he selected out his favorites? The story does not tell us. Notice they are differentiated as “apostles” here as well, as is indicated in Matthew.

The Gospel of Luke changes things up a little, but it is very subtle. Something interesting happens before they are called.

Notice this – in Luke 4:38-39 we read that
“38 After He left the synagogue, He entered Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him about her. 39 So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and began to serve them.”

This is Simon (Peter)’s mother in law – but we haven’t even heard about him yet. He hasn’t been named in the story before this point. He’s like a character in a play who drops in out of the sky – it is assumed we know him, with no introduction. They had to know each other well – Jesus didn’t have the habit of going into people’s houses unless he was asked.

It is later, in Luke 5:1-11 that we get the story about how Peter was called.

“As the crowd was pressing in on Jesus to hear God’s word, He was standing by Lake Gennesaret. 2 He saw two boats at the edge of the lake; the fishermen had left them and were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, which belonged to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from the land. Then He sat down and was teaching the crowds from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 “Master,” Simon replied, “we’ve worked hard all night long and caught nothing! But at Your word, I’ll let down the nets.” 6 When they did this, they caught a great number of fish, and their nets began to tear. 7 So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them; they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. 8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, because I’m a sinful man, Lord!” 9 For he and all those with him were amazed[f] at the catch of fish they took, 10 and so were James and John, Zebedee’s sons, who were Simon’s partners. “Don’t be afraid,” Jesus told Simon. “From now on you will be catching people!” 11 Then they brought the boats to land, left everything, and followed Him.”

Here, it appears that Jesus has to know Simon (Peter) because he walks right onto his boat and starts telling him where to fish. This is different from Matthew and Mark, because in those stories, Jesus calls them from the shore. They also weren’t in the boat.

It is apparent here that they weren’t in their boats at the time Jesus walks up, but followed him after he climbed aboard. But here the story is different in another way – we don’t hear about Andrew at all, and James and John are in the same boat. Also, it is apparent that Simon knows Jesus, because he calls him “Master” (verse 5) He isn’t a stranger. So Simon has been around Jesus for a while by this point, but wasn’t a full-term disciple.

Matthew is called shortly afterwards, in Luke 4:27-28. Shortly after Jesus calls the rest in Luke 5:12-16. Here too he calls them “apostles” not just disciples.

“12 During those days He went out to the mountain to pray and spent all night in prayer to God. 13 When daylight came, He summoned His disciples, and He chose 12 of them—He also named them apostles: 14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John;
Philip and Bartholomew; 15 Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”

It is in the Gospel of John that things change – but this is common with John. John’s telling of the story is radically different – things that occur in the other three Gospels aren’t in John’s, and things that are in John’s aren’t in the other three. It is difficult to determine what actually happened, and when. However, if this were a crime scene, I’d be more likely to go with the three people who agree than the one who differs. I include what John says to fully round out the story, but if there is a major difference, I’m going to side with the majority.

In John 1:29-42, Jesus meets his first disciples the day after his baptism. There is no mention of him going off, led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. This differs from the other three, who all at least mention the Temptation.

“29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Here is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the One I told you about: ‘After me comes a man who has surpassed me, because He existed before me.’ 31 I didn’t know Him, but I came baptizing with water so He might be revealed to Israel.” 32 And John testified, “I watched the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He rested on Him. 33 I didn’t know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The One you see the Spirit descending and resting on—He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God!” 35 Again the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this and followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and noticed them following Him, He asked them, “What are you looking for?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are You staying?” 39 “Come and you’ll see,” He replied. So they went and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day. It was about 10 in the morning. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John and followed Him. 41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, “We have found the Messiah!” (which means “Anointed One”), 42 and he brought Simon to Jesus. When Jesus saw him, He said, “You are Simon, son of John.You will be called Cephas” (which means “Rock”).”

Just after that, Jesus calls Philip (JN 1:43-45)
“43 The next day He[ae] decided to leave for Galilee. Jesus found Philip and told him, “Follow Me!” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael[af] and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!”

Here, the disciples were following John first, and they weren’t by the sea. Andrew is first, and he finds his brother Simon (Peter) later. As we can see, Nathanael doesn’t make the cut later and become an apostle.

We don’t read about him calling the others, but we can infer that he has before John 6:67 were he speaks to “the Twelve”.

This is making for some very interesting weaving and blending to do on my part, to make this one cohesive story. I want to be true to the story and the timeline, but that is difficult when there are differences. It is important that they all agree that Jesus had these followers that he trusted. Exactly when and how he called them? That is open to debate.

(All translations are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible.)

Condensed Gospel part 5. The Sermon on the Mount.

Matthew 5 (all)

When He saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain, and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He began to teach them, saying:

3 “The poor in spirit are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
4 Those who mourn are blessed,
for they will be comforted.
5 The gentle are blessed,
for they will inherit the earth.
6 Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed,
for they will be filled.
7 The merciful are blessed,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 The pure in heart are blessed,
for they will see God.
9 The peacemakers are blessed,
for they will be called sons of God.
10 Those who are persecuted for righteousness are blessed,
for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.

11 “You are blessed when they insult and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of Me. 12 Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good

17 “Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. 18 For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished. 19 Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches people to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, Do not murder, and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. 22 But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ will be subject to the Sanhedrin. But whoever says, ‘You moron!’ will be subject to hellfire. 23 So if you are offering your gift on the altar, and there you remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Reach a settlement quickly with your adversary while you’re on the way with him, or your adversary will hand you over to the judge, the judge to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison. 26 I assure you: You will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny!

27 “You have heard that it was said, Do not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you, everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of the parts of your body than for your whole body to go into hell!

31 “It was also said, Whoever divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce. 32 But I tell you, everyone who divorces his wife, except in a case of sexual immorality,[n] causes her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to our ancestors, You must not break your oath, but you must keep your oaths to the Lord. 34 But I tell you, don’t take an oath at all: either by heaven, because it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, because it is His footstool; or by Jerusalem, because it is the city of the great King. 36 Neither should you swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black. 37 But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.

38 “You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I tell you, don’t resist an evildoer. On the contrary, if anyone slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 As for the one who wants to sue you and take away your shirt, let him have your coat as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two. 42 Give to the one who asks you, and don’t turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

43 “You have heard that it was said, Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward will you have? Don’t even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing out of the ordinary? Don’t even the Gentiles do the same? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Matthew 6 (all)

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 3 But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

5 “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.

9 “Therefore, you should pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Your name be honored as holy.
10 Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And do not bring us into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.
[For Yours is the kingdom and the power
and the glory forever. Amen.]

14 “For if you forgive people their wrongdoing, your heavenly Father will forgive you as well. 15 But if you don’t forgive people, your Father will not forgive your wrongdoing.

16 “Whenever you fast, don’t be sad-faced like the hypocrites. For they make their faces unattractive so their fasting is obvious to people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head, and wash your face, 18 so that you don’t show your fasting to people but to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

19 “Don’t collect for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But collect for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light. 23 But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. So if the light within you is darkness—how deep is that darkness!

24 “No one can be a slave of two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot be slaves of God and of money.

25 “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 7 (all)

“Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. 2 For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 Why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye but don’t notice the log in your own eye? 4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and look, there’s a log in your eye? 5 Hypocrite! First take the log out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 6 Don’t give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

7 “Keep asking, and it will be given to you. Keep searching, and you will find. Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 What man among you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! 12 Therefore, whatever you want others to do for you, do also the same for them—this is the Law and the Prophets.

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. 14 How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life, and few find it.

15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves.16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!’

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.27 The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great!”

28 When Jesus had finished this sermon, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, 29 because He was teaching them like one who had authority, and not like their scribes.

(All translations of the Bible are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and copied from the Bible Gateway website.)

Other thoughts on the “Condensed Gospel”.

I’ve come to see putting the Gospels together as one thing as the same as cooking for myself from scratch. This probably has been done before. Any time someone has made a script for a movie about the life of Jesus they have had to do this. But I haven’t.

When I cook for myself, I get the raw ingredients from the market. I chop them up. I learn how they cook together. And sometimes in the middle of everything I realize I need to add something else. It is a learning experience. It is a bit challenging too. There are often surprises.

I could go to the grocery store and get something prepared, but it wouldn’t taste the same or give the same sense of fulfillment. There is a lot to be said for doing it yourself.

I could look to see if the Gospels have already been put together as one thing. But by doing it myself, I’m learning a lot. It is good discipline.

It is kind of like Biology lab in high school, where we all had to dissect a frog. No new knowledge was gained for science from doing this. But each student learned something that she wouldn’t have known before. You can’t really teach how something three dimensional is put together in a textbook, and sometimes the only way to know is to take it apart.

My “Condensed Gospel” isn’t very condensed. It is, in a way. I’m only putting in one example of everything. Some events are repeated word for word. Some are repeated, but glossed over very quickly. But this is a big story, and there is a lot to it. Ultimately it will be bigger than any one Gospel, because it will have everything important in it.

I have a running commentary going on this project as well. It is where I put in anomalies. There are so many bits that I thought were in all four Gospels, but they are only in one. The Beatitudes – the “Blessed are the…” speech, along with the Sermon on the Mount, is only in Matthew. This was very surprising, as it seems pivotal. The same is true of the story of Gabriel telling Mary that she is going to be the mother of Jesus.

It is amazing to me that the order of events gets mixed up a lot. But I think the most important part is not the order, but the events themselves. It is important to say “what” and not “when” for this story.

If I were to try to publish this for real, I’d probably have to get permissions. I’m copying from one particular translation of the Bible to make it easy, but it is a lot of it. While I doubt that there are royalty checks going to the relatives of the original writers of the Gospels, there probably is something about the translation that matters.

I’m using the Holman Christian Standard Bible for a simple reason. I was able to get free copies of it from the Y, so it is the translation that I had when I was reading the Bible all the way through a few years back. I had a copy in my car and one at work. No matter where I was, I had the same translation with me. It is printed on normal paper – not that annoying “onion skin” paper. It is easy to take notes in. It is an inexpensive printing, so I didn’t feel like I had to baby it. So this is the translation that I’m most familiar with. Now, sure, with the Bible Gateway website, I can use any translation. But I’m finding I need to refer to each Gospel in print and online, as well as take notes, to see how it all goes together.

My big takeaway – if you only have a little time and you want to read the story of Jesus, read Matthew or Luke. Mark and John seem to skip a lot of the story.

I think all Christians need to stop whatever they are doing and read the Gospels for themselves. They don’t have to do this project. This is a bit complicated. But they need to read the Gospels, or at least one of them, slowly and carefully. They need to read what Jesus said, and notice what he didn’t say.

I think that what has gotten the Christian church off the tracks of the message of Jesus has been when people have decided to read the words of anybody else as the Gospel. Not Paul, not your pastor. Not some “prosperity Gospel” peddler. Jesus. Just Jesus.

Plenty of people think that they have to have special training or a seminary school education to understand the Gospels, and that just isn’t so. These words are said for you. Jesus came for you. You are meant to read them and understand them for yourself.

His message is about love, and about not judging. His message is about forgiveness and forgiving. When Christians judge others and say that someone else is a sinner, they have not gotten the message at all.

It is time to return to the beginning.

I think that non-Christians would do well to read the Gospels too – not to be converted, but to know for themselves when someone says they are Christian and aren’t acting like it.

I think way too many Christians have damaged the credibility of the church by their perverse need to tell other people how to live their lives. This isn’t something Jesus did. It is something that Jesus came to change. The more “Christians” try to force their beliefs on others, the more they aren’t acting in a Christ-like manner, and the more people will be turned away from the true message of Jesus.

So the only way to get the message? To read it for yourself. This is in part what I’m trying to do with this project. I’m trying to make it so that everything is all together in one place. I’m not changing any words. I’m not creating a new translation.

Whether people read it or not is up to them. It is kind of like exercise and eating well. I can’t make other people take care of themselves. I can provide the tools so it is easier for them. But it is up to them to do it.

At the heart of it all, I want the Body of Christ to get healthy and strong. This is going to require a lot of work on the part of each member. This is going to require a lot of soul-searching and conscious-examining.

We have gone far astray from the teachings of Jesus if we have people saying that they are members of a church who protest at funerals. You know who I’m talking about. There are other examples of people who use the name of Jesus as a weapon. I don’t want to give them any publicity or energy by naming them. But you know. We all know.

Sure, there are many Christians who are fine examples of Jesus in this world. But they follow the teachings of Jesus and thus don’t make their piety known. Sadly, their good works don’t make the news, and thus don’t put the right face on the church. We have to collectively change the image of the church to being a force for good, and not a bunch of intolerant jerks.

Our message has to be of love. Just love. Nothing else.

Condensed Gospel part 4. Jesus is tempted, gathers disciples, ministry starts.

Matthew 4:1-11
1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. 2 After He had fasted 40 days and 40 nights, He was hungry. 3 Then the tempter approached Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 But He answered, “It is written:
Man must not live on bread alone
but on every word that comes
from the mouth of God.”
5 Then the Devil took Him to the holy city, had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written:
He will give His angels orders concerning you,
and they will support you with their hands
so that you will not strike
your foot against a stone.”
7 Jesus told him, “It is also written: Do not test the Lord your God.”
8 Again, the Devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 And he said to Him, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”
10 Then Jesus told him, “Go away, Satan! For it is written:
Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only Him.”
11 Then the Devil left Him, and immediately angels came and began to serve Him.

Mark 1:14-20
14 After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the good news of God:15 “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news!”
16 As He was passing along by the Sea of Galilee, He saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother. They were casting a net into the sea, since they were fishermen.
17 “Follow Me,” Jesus told them, “and I will make you fish for people!” 18 Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. 19 Going on a little farther, He saw James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in their boat mending their nets. 20 Immediately He called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed Him.

John 1:43-51
43 The next day He decided to leave for Galilee. Jesus found Philip and told him, “Follow Me!”
44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the One Moses wrote about in the Law (and so did the prophets): Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!”
46 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nathanael asked him.
“Come and see,” Philip answered.
47 Then Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said about him, “Here is a true Israelite; no deceit is in him.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
“Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus answered.
49 “Rabbi,” Nathanael replied, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe only because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” 51 Then He said, “I assure you: You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Luke 4:16-30
16 He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. 17 The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:
18 The Spirit of the Lord is on Me,
because He has anointed Me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent Me
to proclaim freedom to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set free the oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
20 He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
22 They were all speaking well of Him and were amazed by the gracious words that came from His mouth, yet they said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?”
23 Then He said to them, “No doubt you will quote this proverb to Me: ‘Doctor, heal yourself. So all we’ve heard that took place in Capernaum, do here in Your hometown also.’”
24 He also said, “I assure you: No prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 But I say to you, there were certainly many widows in Israel in Elijah’s days, when the sky was shut up for three years and six months while a great famine came over all the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them—but to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. 27 And in the prophet Elisha’s time, there were many in Israel who had serious skin diseases, yet not one of them was healed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
28 When they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was enraged. 29 They got up, drove Him out of town, and brought Him to the edge of the hill that their town was built on, intending to hurl Him over the cliff. 30 But He passed right through the crowd and went on His way.

Luke 4:31-41
31 Then He went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and was teaching them on the Sabbath.32 They were astonished at His teaching because His message had authority. 33 In the synagogue there was a man with an unclean demonic spirit who cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Leave us alone! What do You have to do with us, Jesus—Nazarene? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!”
35 But Jesus rebuked him and said, “Be quiet and come out of him!”
And throwing him down before them, the demon came out of him without hurting him at all.36 Amazement came over them all, and they kept saying to one another, “What is this message? For He commands the unclean spirits with authority and power, and they come out!” 37 And news about Him began to go out to every place in the vicinity.
38 After He left the synagogue, He entered Simon’s house. Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him about her. 39 So He stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up immediately and began to serve them.
40 When the sun was setting, all those who had anyone sick with various diseases brought them to Him. As He laid His hands on each one of them, He would heal them. 41 Also, demons were coming out of many, shouting and saying, “You are the Son of God!” But He rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew He was the Messiah.

Mark 1:35-45
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, He got up, went out, and made His way to a deserted place. And He was praying there. 36 Simon and his companions went searching for Him.37 They found Him and said, “Everyone’s looking for You!”
38 And He said to them, “Let’s go on to the neighboring villages so that I may preach there too. This is why I have come.” 39 So He went into all of Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
40 Then a man with a serious skin disease came to Him and, on his knees, begged Him: “If You are willing, You can make me clean.”
41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out His hand and touched him. “I am willing,” He told him. “Be made clean.” 42 Immediately the disease left him, and he was healed. 43 Then He sternly warned him and sent him away at once, 44 telling him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go and show yourself to the priest, and offer what Moses prescribed for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Yet he went out and began to proclaim it widely and to spread the news, with the result that Jesus could no longer enter a town openly. But He was out in deserted places, and they would come to Him from everywhere.

(All translations of the Bible are from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, and copied from the Bible Gateway website.)

Condensed Gospel part 3 – Jesus is baptized.

Luke 3:1-6
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, while Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, 2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, God’s word came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the vicinity of the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, 4 as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah:
A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
Prepare the way for the Lord;
make His paths straight!
5 Every valley will be filled,
and every mountain and hill will be made low;
the crooked will become straight,
the rough ways smooth,
6 and everyone will see the salvation of God.

Matthew 3:4-12

4 John himself had a camel-hair garment with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5 Then people from Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the vicinity of the Jordan were flocking to him, 6 and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River as they confessed their sins.
7 When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the place of his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Therefore produce fruit consistent with repentance. 9 And don’t presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God is able to raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready to strike the root of the trees! Therefore, every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but the One who is coming after me is more powerful than I. I am not worthy to remove His sandals. He Himself will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing shovel is in His hand, and He will clear His threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn. But the chaff He will burn up with fire that never goes out.”

Luke 3:10-14
10 “What then should we do?” the crowds were asking him.
11 He replied to them, “The one who has two shirts must share with someone who has none, and the one who has food must do the same.”
12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized, and they asked him, “Teacher, what should we do?”
13 He told them, “Don’t collect any more than what you have been authorized.”
14 Some soldiers also questioned him: “What should we do?”
He said to them, “Don’t take money from anyone by force or false accusation; be satisfied with your wages.”

Matthew 3:13-16
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 But John tried to stop Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and yet You come to me?”
15 Jesus answered him, “Allow it for now, because this is the way for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him to be baptized.
16 After Jesus was baptized, He went up immediately from the water. The heavens suddenly opened for Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming down on Him. 17 And there came a voice from heaven:
This is My beloved Son.
I take delight in Him!

John 1 32-34
32 And John testified, “I watched the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He rested on Him.33 I didn’t know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The One you see the Spirit descending and resting on—He is the One who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ 34 I have seen and testified that He is the Son of God!”

About the Condensed Gospel project.

I’m impressed that the idea of stitching together one Gospel out of all of them doesn’t sound as daunting now. I know I can do it in pieces. I know I don’t have to do it all at once. I’ve done other large projects like this and while it was unwieldy at times, it wasn’t impossible. It was actually kind of fun.

Half of anything is just getting over the idea that I can’t do it. Sometimes the only thing is to just get started and see. It never is as hard as I think it is going to be, whatever it is.

I read the whole Bible after years of thinking that I couldn’t. I’d spent the last few years reading everything else – all the Pern novels, all the Wrinkle in Time series, all of Dune, all of the Gateway saga by Pohl. I finally realized that if I could take the time to read all of that, I could take the time to read the Bible.

Stitching the Gospels together is entirely different to that. I’ll have four different things at once. Some of them will have the same story. Some of them will only have it once. Will I include different versions of the same story, or just the best bits? I’ll see as I go. Since I was able to put together all four versions of the Resurrection, then I know I can do this. I want to go back and tighten up that piece, to make it streamlined. I want to make it all one thing, instead of going line by line in each Gospel in order. Perhaps that will be part of this exercise. Perhaps I’ll start with that, since I’ve already worked on that section.

It is entirely possible that someone else has already done this, but I don’t care. I feel that I need to do this. Just because someone else has cooked banana bread doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t. I will learn something from doing it myself, no matter whatever it is. And I might uncover something new that the world has never seen. But if nothing else, I’ll have really deeply read the Gospels, and that is always a good thing.

I’m grateful for the online Bible translations these days. That is what makes this easier. I’m reminded of Thomas Jefferson who created his own version of the Gospels by literally cutting and pasting the sections together. He took out all the miracle stuff to show all the great moral teachings of Jesus. I’ll leave them in. They only add to a great story.

Now, am I being distracted? This is a huge project to undertake. The more I work on this, the less I’m working on pulling together posts for my book. But then again I don’t have a deadline on the book, and I don’t have to stop sorting. I have about 85 posts sorted as is. Even if I only shift over a few a day, I’ll be done soon, surely.

And, after all, this is the purpose of my writing. This is the core of my book. This is what I’m meant to write. All else is just preamble and appetizer.

Perhaps this is the reason that the Daily Office was down. I’d felt scattered with it anyway. I was writing articles on the daily readings but there was no order to my posts. I’d thought for a while about just starting at the beginning of the Gospels anyway, but then I was in the habit of reading the Daily Office so I kept on doing that. When it had a glitch I stopped, and I haven’t been disciplined on my own in the meantime. Perhaps this was God’s way of saying it is time to switch gears.