Crown of thorns highlighted on purple background

Lent and God Becoming Human

It might surprise you to know that not all parts of the Bible are theologically correct. For example, most people consider God omniscient, meaning God knows everything. I’ve even heard an atheist say, “If God existed, then he would know everything.” Omniscience, along with omnipotence and omnipresence, are three of the main attributes that make God God—at least in most traditions. So why would God say something like this?

I must go down and see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me; and if not, I will know.

(Gen 18:21)

What do you mean you will know? Aren’t you God?

In this scene, God is speaking to Abraham to discuss plans for Sodom and Gomorrah. God has heard people cry against the rampant injustice and violence there but apparently needed to come down to visit there and see if it was as bad as God heard. How can God talk as if God doesn’t already know? It might not make sense logically, but I think there could be a reason for this.

First, let’s start with what it means to know something. The word for “know” in Hebrew is yada`. It has many different nuances, like “know” in English.

  1. Intellectually. You know it as a fact, like 2+2=4.
  2. How to. It’s possible to know 2+2=4 simply as a fact you memorize and store in your brain. But if you know how to add, you understand it at a deeper level.
  3. Experience. Maybe you have several duplexes that are each rented by two couples. You can observe that four people live in each of those houses. From that experience, you know 2+2=4.

God knows there is injustice in Sodom and Gomorrah, but that knowledge seems to be intellectual at this point. But before executing an extreme judgement, maybe God wants to know through experience if it is as bad as God has heard. As Abraham said to God a few verses later,

“Far be it from you … to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”

(Gen 18:26)

So God suspends judgement until God knows in the truest sense that they deserve it. That speaks to God’s justice. If God does not rush to judgement before gathering the facts, then neither should we. Just a thought.

But doesn’t God already know the facts? Yes, but as I already pointed out, there is a difference between knowing things intellectually and through experience. We see here God’s desire to know our pain through experience, which in a way foreshadows Jesus.

Crown of thorns highlighted on purple background
Heavy is the head that wears the crown

God’s Experience as a Human

I think one of the most important purposes of the Incarnation was for God to experience what it is like to be human, in all of our frailty, suffering, and limitations. God may have known intellectually the pain and struggles of being human. But through Jesus, God experienced it.

This could be why Jesus did not give in to the Devil’s temptation to turn stones into bread or throw himself off of a pinnacle and trust that the angels would catch him. If he went around magically turning stones into bread whenever he was hungry, he would not experience what it is like for someone who had to work all day for that loaf of bread. If he invoked supernatural protection from harm, he would not experience the limitations and fears that come with mortality. When it came time for him to die, he did so in the most torturous way possible, scourging followed by crucifixion. As a result, he knows what pain and suffering are, not just in some abstract sense. He knows because he experienced it. Therefore, the author of Hebrews was able to say in Jesus,

… we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin.

(Heb 4:15)

A Different High Priest

The role of high priest was important in the Old Testament. The high priest lived in the Temple complex and never left it. He was shielded to a great degree from human weakness, especially death and anything that symbolized death. Even looking at a corpse could disqualify him from performing his duties, so the other priests and the people had to assist in keeping him pure. This was necessary, so he could perform the sacrifices that would atone for the sins of the people. However, there was a lot there was a lot about being human, i.e., death, loss, and brokenness, that he just could not sympathize with because he could never get close enough to see the pain and suffering ordinary people had to endure.

After the Temple was destroyed, the high priest could no longer atone for people’s sins. Some Jews at the time believed there was no point in praying. Without the Temple and the sacrifices, they thought they had no more access to God. Imagine what it would have meant to them if they heard and believed, along with Christians, that Jesus has been given the mantle of high priest.

The Temple on earth is gone, but the Temple in heaven endures forever. Jesus serves there forever as high priest, and he is our access to God. And unlike the high priests of old, he was tested in every respect as we are. He did not hide from any of the pain of being human and mortal but experienced it himself. Therefore, he is able to sympathize with us in a way none of the prior high priests could. Furthermore, he is able to stand before God on our behalf, because he did it all without sin. His purity before God does not depend on us or anyone shielding him from death. He experienced death and conquered it through his resurrection.

A Parable

Here is a story I heard in church that I think really drives this point home, a sort of parable. One day, people of earth got angry with God and decided to put God on trial. They felt God had made life too harsh, and the reason God was not doing more to make things better was God lived up in heaven in his ivory tower with streets of gold, where there was no pain, hunger, greed, or suffering. What did God know about life on this earth?

It was time God experienced what it was like to live as humans in this world God created. Let him be born into a poor working family without the privilege of being God. Let the legitimacy of his birth be questioned. Let him experience hunger, thirst, cold, pain, exhaustion, fear, and suffering. Let him know what it is to mourn close friends and family. Let him be tempted with wealth and power as a mortal and see if he can refuse it. Let him come under the scrutiny of powers greater than him. Let him live under threat to life and limb. Let them capture him, torture him, and kill him in the most excruciating way possible for crimes he did not commit. And when that moment comes, let him die alone and forsaken, with crowds mocking and humiliating him, and abandoned by even his family and closest friends.

Then Jesus entered the courtroom and stood before his accusers. He showed them the scars on his hands and feet, the stripes on his back where he had been scourged, and the scars on his forehead from the crown of thorns he had received. One by one, from the oldest to the youngest, they left the courtroom.

“Where are your accusers?” the judge asked.

“They have left.”

“Case dismissed.”

Confession and Lent

Ash Wednesday is here, which means we are in the season of Lent. This particular season has become more meaningful over the years, especially Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. I know we end with Easter, which is the most important holiday for Christians. But this Lent I suggest you not skip over the hard stuff Lent calls us to remember: our vulnerability, our sinfulness, and our mortality. What does it mean that Jesus knows what you’re going through in life right now? Again, I don’t mean he knows because he’s God. He knows because he experienced it: hunger, thirst, cold, loneliness, despair, pain, and suffering. And he is present now to walk through it with you.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, remember these words from Matthew 7:12.

“In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”

Grace and peace to you.

How to write a novel: 1) Write. 2) Edit. 3) Get Feedback. 4) Revise. 5) Repeat.

Writers’ Questions: Contradictory Advice and Tips for a Newbie

I’m doing a blog series now where I find questions on FB writer groups, like Fiction Writing, answer them, and post the Q & A. Eventually, I’m hoping I can collect these into an ebook. Here are a couple of questions, one about how to handle conflicting advice from critiques, and one from a writer just starting her first novel.

How to write a novel: 1) Write. 2) Edit. 3) Get Feedback. 4) Revise. 5) Repeat.
My most succint writing advice.

Question:

…I wrote a series where witches work with law enforcement. It’s not the premise of the stories, but it is a strong recurring element. I shared a scene with a group who hadn’t read it, with two witches coming to an active crime scene, after having been called to it by a federal inspector who had been working with them for roughly five years.

I was told it made no sense to have them there, furthermore that they should argue with the witches about coming. Even after explaining their partnership I was told it didn’t matter and to apply the suggestions. I changed the scene to be more of an clash and when my betas read it, they were confused and upset that after all these years the Inspector changed her tune.

What’s the best way to mitigate this kind of feedback? Since most writing communities shun the author defending their choices, should you do what others say even if they don’t have full context, or is it best to stick with people who’ve followed the story?

Answer:

If your beta readers are familiar with the overall story, you should listen to them. Nothing takes me out of a story quicker than when characters do something that makes no sense given what has happened in the story so far. If I had been one of your beta readers, I probably would have had the same reaction.

On critique groups in general, I am getting ready to self-publish my first novel, and I never would have gotten to this point without them. However, this is the kind of problem that can happen when critiquers see only one scene without having read the story leading up to it. You can explain the situation to them, but sometimes they still don’t get it. I shared my chapters in order, so I knew if they said something didn’t make sense, they had the context to make that judgment.

Anytime you solicit advice, you have to separate the good from the bad. Mostly what I have found is advice falls mostly into three categories.

  1. I know they are right.
  2. I know they are wrong.
  3. I don’t want to use that, but their suggestion points me in a direction that is more interesting than what I have.

If you’re not sure, then try out what they suggest and ask yourself one question: Does this make it a better story? The answer to that is subjective, but that is what it means to be an author: You get to make that call.

Question:

I am just starting out as a writer.

I want to write fun somewhat surreal tropical paradise like stories and also tropical paradise murder mysteries. I have read some of both and am currently on a trip in French Polynesia.

I am a big fan of Agatha Christie and see her series stories as inspiration.

I am learning Polynesian culture and also more specifically Hawaiian culture and history.

I have just entered my 60s, and my career is and has been Information Technology. That might be some I might incorporate as well.

But I am at the very beginning!

So how does one start?

Answer:

Read current bestsellers in your genre. Agatha Christie is considered cozy mystery, so you will need to know what that audience is reading now. Beyond that, join a writing group. Learn the craft: plot, characterization, dialog, point of view, etc. Write. Edit. Get feedback. Revise. Repeat. And welcome.


Both these posts came from a FB group called Fiction Writing. If you would like to see the original posts and other answers, here they are. Given your interests, cozy mysteries set in Hawaii would be the best thing to read. You will probably have to request to join the group. But if your serious about writing fiction, it’s a good place to get some feedback and questions answered.

I wrote a series where witches work with law enforcement.”

I am just starting out as a writer.”

Happy writing!

Writers’ Questions: Should I Open with an Extended Flashback?

This question is about jumping into a flashback in the opening of your novel.

Question:

What’s your guys opinion on a beginning that starts with a cold open, then flashes back to what led to it—Breaking Bad episode one for example: starts with Walt diving the RV violently through the desert with two (presumed) dead bodies sloshing around in chemicals behind him. Crashes the RV in a ditch, gets out in his undies, points a gun toward the approaching sirens, and then boom were taken back to his normal life, cancer diagnosis, and ride along to a meth lab bust which gives him his bright idea, etc., etc., until we lead right back into the opening scene. Works well for tv, movies too, but generally do you find that to be attractive when reading?

Or would it be more plausible to hook the reader, then just keep the story rolling, sprinkling in backstory over the course of the narrative?

Like I said, just a general question. I’ll end up going with whatever I personally enjoy reading/writing the most and what I feel works best for the story but I was just curious about your thoughts on it 🙂 thanks!

 I bring it up originally because I reread Live By Night by Dennis Lehane, and he opens on a scene that happens like 10 years after the story unfolds. Only touches on it for a paragraph. Thought it was an interesting take on getting us into the story—linked the pic of the first page below.

Dennis Lehane jumps quickly into a flashback to explain how his main character, Joe Coughlin, ended up in a tubboat with his feet in cement about to be thrown overboard.
The opening of Dennis Lehane’s novel, Live by Night (2012).

Answer:

A few thoughts.

  1. It is good that you distinguish between writing for visual media, i.e,, TV and movies, from writing novels or short stories. Some things work better for one media than others.
  2. From what I’ve seen, most bestsellers take the second approach: Hook the reader, keep the story moving, and sprinkle in backstory at opportune moments. Jumping almost immediately into an extended flashback happens more in literary fiction. Commercial fiction is much easier to get published than literary fiction, especially for a new author.
  3. If you really have your heart set on flashing back, make sure you have a clear transition between the story opening and the flashback. In the example you give, Lehane did this well with the last sentence of the first paragraph, and the first sentence of the second paragraph.

One more thing to consider. I took a course on writing memoirs. In one of my assignments, I used the same technique. I started with a phone call from a former crush who told me she was getting married, flashed back to when I knew her, my love was unrequited, and she moved away, then back to the phone call and going to her wedding. My teacher told me it made the story interesting in a way. But by saying at the beginning that she was marrying someone else, it took away the suspense the reader would have felt in wondering, “Will he win her heart or not?” I had never thought of that.

Try to understand what you will gain or lose with either choice.

That post came from a FB group called Fiction Writing. This was my answer. If you want to see the original post and other answers, here is the link. You will probably have to join the group if you haven’t already. https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=1628589800828232&set=gm.2377342689075120


What do you think? Do you like it when novels jump into a flashback after a brief introduction? Is it something that works better on TV than in books? Have you read anything published in the last three or four years that has an opening like Lehane’s above?

You're a writer. Claim the title. Writers write, so make time for it every day. Set realistic goals. Embrace the ecstasy of writing. Read, read, read, read, read, read, read. Follow your heart, not the market. Don't just start stories; finish them. Dream big. Learn the rules. Follow the rules. Break the rules. Constructive Criticism: Solicit, Accept, Manage. Put your ego in your back pocket and sit on it. Writing is a journey, not a destination. Enjoy the scenery. Give back to the writing community. Write scared. Remember you are the master of inspiration, not its slave. Set your stories free. Send them into the world. Don't slack on the hard stuff: Outline, Research, Rewrite. Build a lifestyle that nurtures and supports your writing. Love what you do. Write with joy. -A Wordplayer's Manifesto

Writer’s Questions: What if My POV Character Does Not Understand the Language Others Are Speaking?

Point of view (POV) is an important consideration in how you write your stories. I came across this question in one of my Facebook Writing Groups.

How to write about characters speaking in a different language?

Hey guys, hope ur all well! So I’m working on a ww2 story and in one scene, the British mc gets captured by the enemy soldiers. He is laying on the ground at gun point while the other men are arguing with each other in German about whether to kill him or not

How should I go about this since the POV character doesn’t understand what they’re saying? But I also want to show the readers the intentions of the soldiers arguing with each other (some want to take the boy prisoner, but some want to execute him as a lot of their friends got killed in a recent skirmish)

I was thinking maybe ‘they shouted in German’ or actually translating and writing the German dialogue down. Any suggestions please? Thanks!

My Answer

If the POV character does not understand it, don’t translate it. That takes the reader out of your character’s point of view. He probably can’t even make out the words they’re saying, much less understand them. The character can get a sense of what they are saying through their actions and tone of voice. One of them puts his boot on his back, shouts something angrily in German, and presses the gun muzzle to his head. The other shouts, “Nein,” (most people understand that even if they don’t speak German) and pushes him away. Then they argue. The character knows which one wants to kill him and which is trying to save him.

Remember, only 7% of verbal communication is in the words we say. The other 93% is body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. The POV character does not have to understand the words to get the gist of it.

Omniscient vs. Character POV

I gave this advice because the poster said the British MC was the point-of-view (POV) character. If he/she was writing in an omniscient POV, it would be fine to give the words in German and translate them, e.g., “Wollen Sie mit mir kommen?” (Do you want to come with me?) the man asked. In an omniscient POV, you have a narrator who knows everything, so they can tell you anything they want you to know.

But if your POV character does not understand German, you can’t give the exact words. So you have to communicate the soldiers’ intent in a way the MC will understand, i.e., body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.

Most novels today are not written in omniscient POV, and I think for good reason. Here is another example that I think clearly shows the difference. Jerry Jenkins used it in one of his writing tutorials.

In this scene, Mary has just won some election. Here is a brief snippet you might write in omniscient POV.

“Congratulations,” Bob said.

Mary did not believe him.

We have an omniscient narrator telling us what Mary is thinking. But let’s say you are writing the scene from Bob’s point of view. Bob does not know what Mary is thinking. You have to show it in a way Bob will know.

“Congratulations,” Bob said.

“Oh?” Mary raised her eyebrows. “I thought you wanted your wife to win.”

Don’t you feel the tension much more that way? In the omniscient POV, we know Mary does not believe Bob, but Bob does not. In Bob’s POV, Mary shows her disbelief clearly, so Bob knows along with the reader. This is the difference between telling and showing. I added a little body language with Mary raised her eyebrows. But you could have just written Mary said, and it still would have been clear.

“Show Don’t Tell” and POV

Show don’t tell is one of those rules you hear all the time but can be difficult to explain. I think the best way to learn it is to practice using POV characters instead of omniscient POV. In omniscient POV, you can tell all day and get away with it. But if you filter everything through one character’s POV, then you have to show it.


What do you think? Do you have a way of handling characters dealing with foreign languages? Do you prefer to write in omniscient or character POV? Why? Do you agree that character POV makes it easier to show and not tell? Let me know in the comments.

Heart-shaped cloud in blue sky

The Five Most Important Bible Verses about God’s Love

I used to have a pretty long list of things I thought I knew about God. I’d say now, I’m reduced to one certainty: God is love. What does that mean? Here’s what I think.

Heart-shaped cloud in blue sky
Photo by Jeremy Bezanger on Unsplash

1.  Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. (1 Jn 4:8)

If you go to church, hopefully you heard there that God is love. If you didn’t hear it there, then maybe you need to find another church. Even if you don’t subscribe to organized religion, you’ve probably heard it before. Have you ever really thought about the implications of that?

It doesn’t just say God loves us or God is loving. God is love. That means even if there were no people for God to love or to love each other, even if there were no living creatures capable of love in even its most primitive form, love would still exist because God is love.

The first part of this verse is just as important. Knowing God means knowing God is love. Knowing God is love should result in us loving one another. If we don’t love one another, then we don’t love God (cf. 1 Jn 4:7, 20).

2.  We love because [God] first loved us. (1 Jn 4:19)

This tells me all human love is possible because God first loved us. If you want proof of God’s existence, consider our capacity to love. Years ago, I went to the funeral of a Muslim friend’s father. The imam told a parable of a doctor who was going home from a thirty-six hour shift. On the way, he saw a man unconscious in a ditch. Even though he was exhausted, she pulled over, revived him, his wounds, and drove him home. And because the man was poor, he refused to take any payment for it.

How do you feel hearing a story like that? I’m guessing whether you are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or whatever, you admire that doctor. The Imam said, “Anyone, even someone who doesn’t believe in God, would look at that and say the doctor did a beautiful thing. Why? Because God placed an appreciation of love and beauty in the human heart.”

To this day, I consider that the best argument for God’s existence I have ever heard. We love because God first loved us. How do we know God loved us? That brings me to the next verse.

3.  But God proves [God’s] love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

Tell me if you can relate to this. There were times in my life when I thought God hated me, abandoned me, gave up on me, or just did not care enough to be bothered with me. Sometimes I blamed God for it, but more often I blamed myself.

When Martin Luther was a monk, he tried harder than anyone to please God. One day, another monk asked if he loved God. “Love God? Sometimes I hate him!” Why did he hate God (sometimes)? Because he kept trying and trying to please God, and no matter how much he prayed, or how diligent he was in confessing and repenting of his sins, it was never enough. Let’s just say I can relate.

If you have ever felt that way, look at that verse again.

But I already know Christ died for me.

No, look at the whole verse. How does it start? God has already proved God’s love for us. You don’t have to prove how much you love God, because the point of what Christ did at the cross was to prove how much God loves us. What speaks to me most powerfully is that has already happened. That means you can never change it. God’s love and acceptance of you is not based on what you do or don’t do. It’s based on what Christ already did.

4. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 8:38-39)

It’s easy to believe God loves us when things are going well. Life is good, and so is God. But what about when life isn’t so good?

The Prosperity Gospel taught me a life of faith would protect me from peril, poverty, death, things present, things to come, hardship, persecution, or sickness. If you want health, wealth, a perfect marriage, obedient children, and success in all your endeavors, you just have to believe God for it, and it will be so. If it doesn’t happen immediately, keep believing, keep being faithful to God, and it will happen. But what if it still doesn’t happen? Either you sinned or you didn’t have enough faith, whatever that means.

Read these verses again. Actually, let’s start a few verses before that.

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(Rom 8:35-39)

There is a lot in there that the Prosperity Gospel says will not happen if you are faithful to God and believe the Bible. But this passage does not say a life of faith will protect you from hardship, distress, hunger, poverty, peril, rulers, things present, things to come, or anything in all creation we don’t want in our lives. It only says none of that ever has or ever will separate us from the love of God in Christ.

Paul did not just preach this. He lived it. Everywhere he went to teach the Gospel, it seems they would throw him in prison, beat him, scourge him, stone him, or accuse him of all kinds of mischief he never did. Throw on top of that shipwrecks, illness, robbers, possible vision problems, people who opposed him in his own congregations, charlatans fleecing his people, and a mysterious “thorn in the flesh” that he could not pray away, according to the Prosperity Gospel, God just never favored him at all. Yet I cannot find anywhere in his letters or the book of Acts where Paul ever questioned God’s love for him.

You can’t separate yourself from the love of God in Christ. Other people can’t separate you from the love of God in Christ. Pain, distress, famine, prison, persecution, gossip, fire, flood … No! Nothing that ever has happened, is happening, or could happen to us can separate us from the love of God in Christ. Not even you can make God stop loving you, because God is love.

5.  For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Of course I had to include this one. If you grew up in the church, this was probably the first Bible verse you memorized. John’s attitude toward the world is usually negative. It is full of sin and corruption that only God can save us from. But even John had to acknowledge God loved the world in spite of that. God gave his only Son for us, to prove God’s love and offer us the gift of eternal life.

You might think that means going to heaven when we die. But in the truest sense, eternal life is life in relationship with God, who is love. When our lives reflect God’s love, that is eternal life. When a lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life, it turned out he already knew the answer: Love God and love your neighbor (Luk 10:26-29). Do this, Jesus said, and you will have eternal life, here and now, and whatever awaits us after death.


So those are my top five verses about God’s love. Which verses speak God’s love most powerfully to you? Do you think I missed any? Let me know in the comments. To sum things up, I will leave you with a few more words from John’s Epistle.

Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.

(1 Jn 4:7)

Grace and peace to you.

{All scripture quotes come from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) unless otherwise noted.}

Mockup of imaginary physical bitcoin with BTC symbol in center: around the edge reads "Bitcoin Digital Decentralized Peer to Peer 1 Troy Oz Fine Copper MJB Monetary Metals"

Bitcoin and the Fed

A quick disclaimer: I am not a financial advisor. Anything I say is for educational and/or entertainment purposes only. Any financial product or service, including particular crypto currencies, exchanges, stocks, experts, or whatever I use as examples do not constitute an endorsement. Always do your own research.

I am almost completely convinced the Four-Year Cycle for Bitcoin is dead. As more big money investors have jumped into the market, its price has become tied to their patterns of investing. I don’t claim to be an expert, but here is one thing I know. They have a hierarchy of investments.

  1. Traditional markets
  2. Bitcoin
  3. Altcoins

This means when traditional markets pump, Bitcoin will pump. When Bitcoin pumps, Altcoins will pump. It works the other way too. When traditional markets dump, Bitcoin will dump. When Bitcoin dumps, altcoins will dump.

We saw this on Friday, January 21. With professional investors expecting the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates, they sold off a lot of stocks and similar investments. That meant selling pressure on Bitcoin and Altcoins. If you looked at the charts that day, you could see all of them dropping together.

The Fed had not yet raised interest rates, but just the announcement that they might was enough to send the markets crashing. As it turns out, they announced on January 26 that they were not raising interest rates yet, but they plan to do so in March. The markets recovered somewhat, but it has been a rough month all around. Bitcoin dropped to nearly $30,000 in the latest dip. It has recovered to almost $38,000 at the time of writing. Altcoins experienced a similar sharp dip with a partial recovery.

What Happened to 100K?

Many experts expected Bitcoin to reach a price of $100,000 by the end of 2021. Plan B famously made (or retweeted) predictions for Bitcoin’s price at the close of each month from August to December. And for a while, it looked downright prophetic.

Month (2021)Plan B PredictionBTC Price at Month Close
August$47,000$47,159.26
September$43,000$43,829.34
October$63,000$61,349.75
November$98,000$56,975.35
December$135,000$46,197.31
-Source: PlanB’s 2021 monthly price close prediction (buybitcoinworldwide.com)

If you needed a reminder that no one knows what is going to happen with Bitcoin in the future, look at the first three months, then the last two. August through October, he nailed it. At the beginning of November, the price kept going up, reaching a new all-time high of $69K. “98K this month! We break 100 in December!”

Smiley face emoji with dollar signs in eyes
BTC to the moon!!!

I almost tried a leverage trade in November. Good thing I didn’t. But I’ve learned an important lesson. When you think you know how high and how fast Bitcoin is going up, you really don’t. I’ll admit it was disappointing not to see those highs that looked like a sure thing back in early November. However, I still believe the fundamentals of Bitcoin are still strong. Price doesn’t always reflect fundamentals. Just because the price is volatile doesn’t mean the fundamentals have changed. When there is growing demand and limited supply, it has to go up sometime.

One move I made that did not work out was to put a little into some altcoins, expecting them to pump when Bitcoin pumped. Bitcoin did not pump like I expected, and neither did my altcoins. I was going to sell them for a profit. As it worked out, selling meant taking a loss. In that situation, I like to trade those losing alts for Bitcoin (or Ethereum). Bitcoin will come up in value again, so I have a chance to recoup my losses.

Lessons Learned

Assets that are considered “high risk” (mainly tech stocks, Bitcoin, and Altcoins) have done will in the last couple of years. That was in an environment of extremely low interest rates and quantitative easement (when the Fed sharply increases money supply). Those conditions might be good for investing, but they lead inevitably to inflation. The Fed will have to put a stop to this, so we could see that coming to an end in March. Between January 21-26, traditional markets, Bitcoin, and Altcoins all dropped together. I think this was a preview of what will happen when the Fed starts taking action to curb inflation.

The Fed has indicated they will take the actions they did not take last week—raising interest rates, reducing quantitative easement—in March. Instead of a market recovery, this feels more like delaying the inevitable. The market recovery we’re seeing now seems to be a sigh of relief from investors, but that is likely to change.

Between now and the next Fed announcement in March, I expect to see Bitcoin’s price go up again, maybe back above 40K. But no matter how high the price goes now, it will probably drop again when the Fed changes its policy.

I’m still optimistic about Bitcoin long-term, i.e., five to ten years. But short-term, we’re probably in for a bumpy ride. Again, this is not financial advice, but times like this I believe are the best to buy and hold. I’ve talked about dollar-cost averaging (DCA) before, and I believe that is the best way to do it.

Dollar-Cost Averaging: The Best Way to Buy

With dollar-cost averaging, you spread out your investment over weeks or months. Let’s say you like the price now and want to buy $1000 of Bitcoin. Theoretically, you could have bought close to the recent low, say $32K. But we only know that was the bottom with the luxury of hindsight. Say I did that, and then the price dropped to $25K? I would be kicking myself. “Missed that opportunity!” With DCA, I say instead, “Oh wait, I didn’t miss it. I’m still buying.”

That’s what I like about DCA. You can set any amount and frequency you want (hourly, daily, weekly, monthly). It saves you from having to time the market (which mostly comes down to dumb luck), and it saves you a lot of frustration. It is literally set it and forget it (unless you decide to change). You don’t worry when the price goes down. In fact, I’m happy when the price goes down. I’m not a professional investor, but I understand it’s better to buy low than high.

Do you still want to DCA if the price shoots up, say, 10 or 20K in two weeks? Personally, I might pause at a time like that and wait for the price to come down again. Some people might take profits then. You can sell using DCA as well. The process is the same. You just set it to sell on a schedule instead of buy. Some people just let their DCA keep going no matter what the price does. That means they buy the bottoms, tops, and everywhere in between. It still works out pretty well on average.

If you are interested in setting up DCA, I use Delta Badger. It works on several exchanges with no transaction fees. It’s free for up to $1200/year in transactions. There are paid options as well. If you use this link, you’ll get 10% off. Even if you use the free option, the discount is still good if you decide later to upgrade. I’m still on the free plan myself. And if someday I am in a position to crossover to a paid plan, what I would save in transaction and gas fees would be worth it.

{Disclaimer: It is an affiliate link. But it is the only link I have with the discount.}

Keep calm and hodl on.

earth with starry background and hands sheltering over and under

New Medium Blog Post: Created God the Heaven(s) and the Earth

I finished my translation of Genesis 1:1. Follow the link to see.

Created God the Heaven(s) and the Earth.

Or here is the conclusion.


Now for the moment of truth. How would I translate this verse if I were on some committee of translators? Here it is.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Incidentally, this is the same as the English Standard Version (ESV). You might be thinking, “Well, that was much ado about nothing.”

I know it might look that way. I ended up translating it almost the same as the King James, which has been around for over 400 years. The only change I made was to make heaven plural. Maybe you think Bible translation is like making sausage. Don’t show me the process. Just give me the end result. The thing is, we still need some people who know how to make sausage.

At an early age, I learned that there are some things in our English Bibles that were lost in translation, and I wanted to investigate them. In just this one verse, I found some things that could not be translated into English or even the ancient Septuagint.

  1. Created comes before God to show something God did for us before revealing God’s name.
  2. An untranslated word et reinforces important ideas: that the heavens and the earth are not deities but created by God, and that God created not only the heavens and the earth but everything in between and everything that exists in them.
  3. The heavens is preferable to heaven or the heaven, because it includes every possible meaning of the Hebrew word ha-shamayim.

And even though I ultimately did not agree with the Masoretic Text (Hebrew) which said, “When God began to create heaven and earth,” that reading needed to be considered, and the reasons for changing it needed to be compelling. When the scribes and Rabbis who copied, preserved, and taught these scriptures in their original language for thousands of years tell you what they think it means, you need to at least listen, even if you disagree.

Also, the idea behind that reading is that creation did not happen all at once. It was a process of bringing order to chaos. That idea is important not only for the Bible but for life. God ordered everything about this world—light, darkness, water, land, sky, plants, and animals—just by commanding their patterns of organization, and I can’t even bring order to my office. But if God is so good at ordering chaos, maybe somehow God can impart just a little of that to me.

In the end, though, I think what is most important about this verse is it declares boldly that God not only created the heavens and the earth, but everything in between and everything that exists in them. The entire universe and all that is in it. That is why—with all due respect to Rashi and the Masoretes—I have to part ways with them here. But they took me on a fascinating journey, and I hope to have many more opportunities to explore with them on this wild, wild world of Hebrew scriptures.

Map of earth painted on two hands with blue sky and white clouds in background

Two New Posts on Medium: How to Translate the First Word of the Bible

This may sound weird, but one of my favorite hobbies is Bible translation. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to translate Hebrew to English, you can check out these posts on my Medium blog. I just did the first word, bereishit, and it took two posts. All that just for the first word? Yep. If you have a modern study Bible, you might see the verse read, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.” But there might be a footnote saying, “Hebrew reads, ‘When God began to create the heaven and the earth'”.

In the Beginning … Or Not? This post will be enough for you to understand why this controversy exists.

In the Beginning, Part 2, and Justice for the Aleph. I get into some of the more technical aspects of translating bereishit. Then you can get some insight into the Rabbis who preserved and taught these scriptures over the millennia through a story of why they say creation begins with the second letter of the alphabet and not the first.

If you are following my blog on Medium, let me know in the comments if you like having a blog dedicated to religious topics. I will start posting some of my ideas on writing soon. After all, this is supposed to be an author’s blog.

Thanks for reading. Until next time, remember these words from Matthew 7:12. “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (NRSV).

Mockup of imaginary physical bitcoin with BTC symbol in center: around the edge reads "Bitcoin Digital Decentralized Peer to Peer 1 Troy Oz Fine Copper MJB Monetary Metals"

Bitcoin Update: What Happened to the Four-Year Cycle?

I wrote a post about Bitcoin a few months back. It was intended to be a primer for those who want to understand it better. If you are new to Bitcoin (BTC), you might want to read it to understand some of the terms I’ll be using here. While I talked about some of my strategies for investing, it was not intended as financial advice. And here I am again making the same disclaimer. I am not a financial adviser. This article is for information and entertainment purposes only. There is inherent risk in all investing, so do your own research.

Mockup of imaginary physical bitcoin with BTC symbol in center: around the edge reads "Bitcoin Digital Decentralized Peer to Peer 1 Troy Oz Fine Copper MJB Monetary Metals"
Digital Gold

Back in July, I believed Bitcoin could either drop below $20K or go to six figures by the end of November. Neither scenario played out. While it did reach new all-time highs in November, it then fell about 30% and is now moving sideways between $40-50K. That’s not bad in the grand scheme of things, and I still believe the long-term future for Bitcoin is very bright. But it’s a far cry from breaking $100K, as most of the experts I listened to believed it would do by the end of the year. Their belief, and hence mine, was based on what is called the Four-Year Cycle. I explained that in my previous Bitcoin article.

The Four-Year Cycle should have given us a bull market that should have ended sometime between September and November. Then there would have been a crash, and a long bear market would have followed, though the price would recover to some degree before the next Four-Year Cycle. If the all-time high of $68K we saw in November really was the end of the bull market, the price should have crashed down to about $10K. We have not seen the kind of price run-up or crash we should have according to the Four-Year Cycle, and I think I know why.

Whale Manipulation

On August 20, 2020, Microstrategy became the first listed company to buy Bitcoin. Since then, the company’s CEO Michael Saylor has become one of the most outspoken advocates for Bitcoin, singing its praises as a prime store of value, a hedge against inflation, and key to the company’s long-term financial strategy. Since then, many other corporations and institutional investors have jumped in, notably Paypal, Tesla, Square, ARK Invest, and Pantera Capital, just to name a few. The big money they brought to the market helped propel the price of Bitcoin from $29K on January 1 to a then all-time high (ATH) of $64K on April 14.

While it was exciting to see the price climb and Elon Musk tweet that Tesla added $1.5 billion of Bitcoin to its balance sheet and would accept it as payment, in the back of my mind there was this nagging thought. If anything could change the Four-Year Cycle, this would be it. If whales—big money investors—have the power to move the price up, they also have the power to move the price down.

After April 14, the price dropped some, settling into the $50,000’s, but no one who knew about the Four-Year Cycle was freaking out. It looked like a normal price correction, but according to the Four-Year Cycle, we were still in a bull market. Then in May, a flurry of negative press came out, including Elon Musk reversing his position and saying Tesla would no longer take Bitcoin as payment, citing concerns over its carbon footprint. After that, the price did not just drop. It plummeted as low as $29K before the end of the month, more than 50% off its recent ATH. That is not normal in a bull market. I don’t think it’s normal in any market. One billionaire tweets an endorsement, and the price immediately pumps. A couple months later, same billionaire tweets something negative, and the price immediately dumps. And how many people do you think were really interested in buying a Tesla specifically with Bitcoin? How many people really said, “What? I can’t buy a Tesla with Bitcoin? That’s the only reason I bought it in the first place. I’m selling!” This reeks of manipulation.

What Does Market Manipulation Look Like?

Sometimes markets move. Sometimes markets are moved. Whales are people or entities that have enough money to manipulate the market. They want to buy low and sell high, but they don’t always wait for the price to go up or down. Through strategic buying and selling, they can make the price go up and down.

In the 1930’s, a man named Richard Wyckoff found that market manipulation follows consistent patterns. The big investors who manipulate the markets all act the same way, so he referred to them collectively as “the Composite Man.” When you see signs of manipulation, ask yourself, “What does the Composite Man want, short-term and long-term?” Long term, it’s pretty simple. If it’s an asset they want and believe will go up a lot in value over time, they want to acquire as much of it as possible at the lowest price possible. Short-term, they either want to drive the price down, so they can buy at a discount, or drive the price up to take profit. This goes in cycles. Wyckoff created very detailed charts that show how to recognize what the Composite Man is doing, and the price action of Bitcoin this year has followed those patterns.

Without getting too technical, a Wyckoff pattern occurs in two stages called Accumulation and Distribution. During the Accumulation stage, the Composite Man is buying but careful not to buy too much too quickly. This is when he wants to keep the price low, so he can accumulate a sizable chunk of the asset. When the Composite Man (I’ll call him “the Man”) is ready, he buys more aggressively to drive the price up. The Man wants to tie this to some story or series of stories in the media, so when smaller investors see the price go up, FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) will kick in, and they will rush to buy, driving the price up even further. It works even better if the Man has access to those media channels (or 55 million followers on Twitter) and can push positive stories at the right time.

When the price is as high as the Man thinks he can make it go, he switches to the Distribution stage. This is when he sells off, not all of it, but enough to make the price dip 10, 20, maybe 30% very quickly. Again, they like to time it with some negative story (or stories) in the news. Retail investors who FOMO’ed in now experience FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) and sell to cut their losses, driving the price even lower. When they sell, who buys? That’s right. The Man, the people who created the FUD in the first place. Now the Man is back to Accumulation, and the whole cycle repeats. If you want more detail, here is a video that explains it well.

The End of the Four-Year Cycle?

I’m not saying Elon alone is responsible for this. Remember, the Man here is not one individual but a composite of big money investors. I think the Man had this planned all along, and Elon (wittingly or unwittingly) gave them cover first for Accumulation, then for Distribution. After revisiting its annual low of $29K on July 19, it appeared the Man had accumulated what he wanted, because Bitcoin started going up again. It reached another all-time high of $68K on November 10 before going down again. For the past two weeks, the price has been fluctuating between $42-49K.

The Four-Year Cycle has pretty well-established patterns of bull and bear markets. This kind of movement looks like neither. If $68K in November was the top of this bull market (which is when it should have ended), the price should have dropped about 85%, which would put it around $10K. We would know then the switch from bull to bear market has happened. Why isn’t Bitcoin behaving like it has in the past? I think it’s because this is the first Four-Year Cycle we have seen where “the Composite Man” is going after Bitcoin. Even experts who have followed Bitcoin for five years or more are at a loss to say whether it’s time to take some profit in anticipation of the bear market, or whether the Man will drive the price up one more time.

I’m beginning to think we need to stop thinking in terms of the four-year cycle and start thinking in terms of Wyckoff’s Accumulation and Distribution.

There is one more thing you need to know about the Man. They have a hierarchy of investment priorities for different levels based on risks.

  1. Traditional markets (stocks and commodities)
  2. Bitcoin
  3. Altcoins (any cryptocurrency other than Bitcoin)

1 is less risky than 2, which is less risky than 3. When the traditional markets are down, they tend to move money out of riskier investments. That means when the traditional markets drop, Bitcoin drops. When Bitcoin drops, altcoins drop. It works the same in reverse. When the traditional markets are up, Bitcoin is up. When Bitcoin is up, altcoins are up. I saw this happen in May. When Bitcoin dumped, my altcoins followed. I traded most of them for Bitcoin and Ethereum (ETH) to wait for the next upturn.

Earlier this month, the traditional markets dropped, so the latest drop in Bitcoin and altcoins can be somewhat attributed to that. But considering that a normal cycle would have had the price down to $10K, a price hovering in the 40’s isn’t so bad. Furthermore, there are indications that a new bottom might be in.

Retail Investors Wising Up

Data shows that the amount of Bitcoin on exchanges is the lowest it has been in a long time. What does that mean? People buy, sell, and trade cryptocurrencies on exchanges like Coinbase, Binance, and Crypto.com. However, most people don’t keep them there. They will keep most of their crypto on a digital wallet because it is more secure. Some popular wallets include Exodus, Coinbase Wallet, and Trust Wallet. These are sites on a blockchain network where you can deposit BTC and other crypto, and you are given encrypted keys to access it when you want.

While there are many factors to consider when trying to determine where the price is going to go, one factor is the amount of BTC on exchanges. When there is a lot of BTC moving from wallets to exchanges, that means people are looking to sell. But when a lot of BTC is moving off exchanges to wallets, that means people are planning to hold for a while. With BTC on exchanges at such a low level as it is now (at the time of writing), the chances of a huge sell-off driving the price down much further are very low.

Furthermore, two of my favorite crypto analysts (Crypto Jebb and Satoshi Stacker on YouTube) showed data that says of the BTC that moved onto exchanges recently, around 5% came from wallets holding less than one BTC. That means despite the recent drop of 25-30% in just the last few weeks, retail (or small) investors are not selling. That also proves while the Man has great power to manipulate the market, that power is limited. If they are trying to scare small (and probably inexperienced) investors into selling at a discount, it is not working. When retail investors see through the FUD and Hodl (not a typo), the game of shaking BTC out of weak hands becomes pointless. I hate that this is part of the game, but if you want to invest in BTC, you have to be wise to the Man’s manipulations. But I am encouraged that other retail investors like me are catching on.

Again, this is not financial advice, but this is why I’m not selling yet. There probably will be a bear market at some time in the future, but this looks more like Wyckoff Distribution at the moment. While I don’t know when or even if it will happen, I think the price has to go up again before another bear market. If it does, that will confirm to me that the Four-Year Cycle is dead, and anyone investing in BTC will need to study Wyckoff in more depth.

I can’t help but think that once the Man sees he has gotten the price as low as he can, he will send the price up again for another round of profit taking. He might spend a few more weeks keeping the price below $50K so he can accumulate more. But his M.O is to drive the price down to accumulate, then drive the price up to take profits, and repeat. I look at the fundamentals of Bitcoin, and they are still strong no matter what the Man says. No one has ever lost money holding BTC for at least four years. Therefore, the only time to sell for me is just before a bear market. That way, when the price drops, I can buy back at a discount, just like the Man. But until then, I intend to keep calm and HODL on.

BTCUSD history — Timeline of major events — TradingView

New Post on Medium: “Advent Reflections: The Seed of Abraham”

Advent Reflections: The Seed of Abraham

Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac
“Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?”

Abraham and Sarah had a son, Isaac, when they were both “as good as dead.” What does that tell us about Jesus? My latest blog post continues the seed motif I began with “On Snakes and Advent.” As subscribers to this blog, I am giving you free links to my Medium articles. FYI, Medium offers three free articles per month. But my free links will not count toward that three.