Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Movies You Can't Not Watch

A week or so ago I was flipping channels, but not really planning to watch TV for very long, but I came onto "The Matrix," not quite at the beginning but pretty close, and I ended up watching it to the end, even though I've seen it many times.  It's just one of those movies that draw me in and I can't not watch to the end no matter where I've dropped in.

It happened again the other day, this time with "Forrest Gump."  It was 20 minutes to the end, but I had to watch it.  Great movie.

So I got to thinking: what are the other movies that are so good that I have to watch if I happen to flip to them mid-way?

Here's my list, in no particular order:

1. Field of Dreams
2. Driving Miss Daisy
3. The Matrix
4. The Shawshank Redemption
5. Forrest Gump.
6. One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest
7. E.T.
8. Raider's of the Lost Ark
9. The Silence of the Lambs
10. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
11. A Few Good Men
12. Aliens
13. The Little Mermaid (I know, I know, but I probably watched this a million times when Angela and Austin were little, and it sucks me in every time.)
14. Dead Poets Society
15. Amadeus

There's probably more, but fifteen is a good, round number to stop with.

OK, I know you guys aren't big on posting comments, but I'm curious: what's your list look like?

Friday, August 27, 2010

How to Survive a Plague

In the second century after Christ, a great epidemic swept across the Roman Empire.  Known as the “Plague of Galen,” it killed so many people that Marcus Aurelius spoke of caravans of carts and wagons hauling the dead from the cities.  It is estimated that between 25-33% of the population of the empire perished during the four years that the unknown disease rampaged across the land. 
About 100 years later another epidemic struck the Roman world.  At its height five thousand people a day died in the city of Rome alone.  The devastation of most epidemics tend to be greatest in urban areas where people are concentrated most densely, but these plagues were not limited to the cities.  Calculations based on Dionysius’ account suggest that 2/3 of the population surrounding Alexandria may have perished.
Though lacking sophisticated medical knowledge of how disease spread, most people did what is natural in the face of such destruction: run.  Those that could abandoned the dying in the cities and escaped into the country where the disease had not struck.  These people, of course, were wealthy and could afford to live someplace else; the poor were left to fend for themselves and hope that the angel of death would skip over them.  But the healthy poor avoided the sick poor, leaving friends, neighbors, and even family members alone to die a terrible death.
The pagan religions of the Roman Empire provided neither answers nor hope for people when these disasters struck.  The priests of these religions could offer no answer as to why the gods had sent such misery—or even if the gods were involved or even cared.  Not that they were around to ask; they fled along with the highest civil authorities and the wealthy, leaving behind even more disorder and suffering.
Thucydides, in History of the Peloponnesian War, says that people were afraid to visit one another.  As a result,
They died with no one to look after them; indeed there were many houses in which all the inhabitants perished through lack of any attention….The bodies of the dying were heaped one on top of the other, and half-dead creatures could be seen staggering about in the streets or flocking around the fountains in their desire for water.  The temples in which they took up their quarters were full of the dead bodies of people who had died inside them.  For the catastrophe was so overwhelming that men, not knowing what would happen next to them, became indifferent to every rule of religion or of law….No fear of god or law of man had a restraining influence.  As for the gods, it seemed to be the same thing whether one worshipped them or not, when one saw the good and the bad dying indiscriminately.

Not so with the small Jewish sect called Christians.  Those that were wealthy enough to run—and sociological evidence is such that there were probably more Christian converts drawn from the wealthy than is traditionally thought—instead stayed.  Not only did they stay, but they took care of the sick.  And though the Christian community suffered in the plagues, they did so at a much lower rate than did the rest of the population.  This is not because God smiled on them and supernaturally protected them while withholding such protection from everyone else.  It is because the Christian religion taught that not only did their god love them, but also required them to love others.  In pagan religions, the gods might have sexual desire for some humans, but not love.  The gods had no real regard toward the humans, except maybe anger or jealousy.  But the god of the Christians was characterized by love, and expected humans to love each other as well.  This, coupled with a belief that death wasn’t an end to existence but a transition to a brighter future, led the Christians to somewhat fearlessly stick it out and tend to the sick.  Some of the sick died, and some of the healthy got sick and died as well, at a much higher rate than among the pagans.
Why?  Just because of love?  Well, yes, in a way, because love compelled them to stay and care for the sick, feeding them, giving them water.  And modern epidemiologists say that this simple provision of food and water allowed persons who were temporarily too weak to cope for themselves to recover instead of perishing miserably.  In other words, the survival rates in these plagues would have been higher had the sick just been given simple food and water.
The Christians had a theology, an epistemology, and a praxis that compelled them to help the sick and dying and that allowed them to not fear death, and this is among the many reasons Christianity grew from a small sect to a major force in the Roman Empire.
So it’s strange to hear forms of Christianity that only preach half of that formula.  Their theology is almost exclusively about getting people to heaven when they die—not, admittedly, a bad thing—through a formula that truncates the true Gospel.  Christian love and compassion are only about helping people on this side of death live on the other side—so ministering to the hungry, the sick and the dying mainly involves telling them the going-to-heaven formula.  Giving food to the hungry is seen as opening a door to evangelism, and nothing more.  And issues of justice, in their view, are just liberal red herrings distracting people from the real issue of evangelism and salvation.
These early Christians in the Roman Empire, and in fact Christians throughout most of their history, did not make issues of justice, compassion, and self-sacrificial love separate issues from each other or from evangelism.  They didn’t treat them as separate issues at all.  There was just one issue—trying to live their lives as Jesus taught them to live.
They risked their lives and served the sick, and Christianity survived and even thrived in the face of these plagues.  Others sought to save their own lives, and ended up losing. 
“For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Today Kobi the Wonder Beagle turns 4!  So here are some baby pictures to celebrate the day.

Escaping after nabbing a paper towel
Why you don't let hoodie strings dangle in front of beagle puppies
Looks like a picture from one of those syrupy Powerpoint emails, doesn't it?

Probably wondering if someone's gonna throw him some of that food they're eating.

Puppies poop out. (Actually, he still does this a lot)
Getting up didn't look near as scary

The population of man-eating squirrels and man-eating rabbits has just about disappeared since Kobi started protecting the back yard. 

Happy Birthday Kobi!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Fixing Mistakes

A lot of lutherie is learning how to fix things when they don't go as planned.  And it's not uncommon for things not to go as planned.  It's so not uncommon, that there's a particular thrill when something actually goes right.

So last week it was time to rout the rabbets for the bindings on the guitar, so I got all the stuff out to do it, including the bearings that go on the router bit that control the depth of the rout.  I found the correct bearing, installed it, did some tests cuts on scrap, and then it was time.

It's actually kinda scary to start cutting into the guitar bodies, so I'm always nervous when I actually move from scrap pieces to the actual guitar.  I started with the back of Quigley's guitar and started routing from the middle of the lower bout to the butt, and then back toward the waist.  As I approached the waist, there was a funny noise, something went flying, and the guitar kind of jerked.  I turned off the router and looked at  the body.

There was a nice little gouge in the back deeper into the body than it should have been.  With a sick feeling I looked at the router to see what might have caused it.

Seems that I hadn't tightened the screw holding the bearing to the bit enough, and over the course of cutting the test pieces it had been working loose, and finally fell off.

Well, the screw fell off; the bearing went flying.  Without the bearing, the bit cut deeper into the body than it should.

Here's what it looked like:

Well, that's enough to ruin your day!  So, now what do I do?

My first inclination, right in the middle of my frustration, was to cut the back off, toss it, and start over again with a new back.

Deep breath, dude.

Next I looked to see if I could widen the rabbet all around and add more purfling than the simple black/white/black purfling I had intended.  Thing is, to cover it I would have needed the original b/w/b purfling, then something wider like a herringbone, and then another b/w/b purfling.  Backs don't normally get that much ornamentation, I don't think it would have looked good anyway, and I would have had to decide whether to match it by doing the same thing on the top.

In these situations it's always good to take some time.  So I turned everything off, went inside, and watched TV for the rest of the day.  Ate a whole bag of potato chips.  Not really, but I felt like it.

By the next day I had decided that I could recover from this.  So here's what I did.

I got the part of Quig's back that was leftover after I cut the shape out--called the offcut.  I used a contour gauge to duplicate the shape of the gouge.

I transferred that onto the off-cut where the grain lines matched the area of the back, and cut it out on the bandsaw. Then I did a lot of filing of both the patch and also the gouge to give it a more regular shape.  I got it to fit as close as I could and then used Tite-Bond to glue it up.  After a couple of hours I sanded it flush.

And here's what it looks like now:

Pretty nice, huh?  From another angle you have a hard time finding it.  With the binding installed it won't be noticed unless you know what you are looking for and where to look for it.

Yesterday I went back to routing the rabbets, and had no more incidences on either guitar.  I'll finish tonight and start gluing the binding and purflings.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Present and Involved

C.S. Lewis said that a person who claimed to be God was either a liar, a lunatic or Lord.  He was either bad, mad, or God.  (If you say “God” with a Boston accent it kinda rhymes with “bad” and “mad.”  Work with me here.)
A lot of people hear the Christian claim that God is one—what we call monotheism—and yet three—the doctrine of the Trinity—and conclude that we are crazy.  Some think we’re liars, but, since most Christians sincerely believe the Trinity, most go the crazy route.  They are nice enough not to actually put it that way, but to when they hear us say that God is one and yet God is three, they are undoubtedly thinking, “That’s nuts.  Something can be one, or something can be three, but nothing can be both.”
You have to admit, they have a point.  If someone insists to me that their solid-color shirt is red, and that it is also yellow—not reddish yellow or yellowish red, but both pure red and pure yellow—well, I’m calling the guys in white uniforms, right?  It’s like saying that a person is both five feet tall and six feet tall.  Height is not a binary state.
So even Christians find the idea of the Trinity to be confusing.  And when you consider that the first Christians were Jews, and that Jews were strict monotheists, you have to ask, “How is it that good monotheistic Jews came to worship Jesus as Lord and still insist that they were good monotheistic Jews?”
The fact is that it really wasn’t as much of a stretch as it appears.  We make the Trinity a matter of math—one yet three.  But there is another way—a very Jewish way—of looking at it.
For the Jews, monotheism was about two things: God is other, and God is involved.  God is the sovereign creator of heaven and earth, but he does not stand off from his creation—he is intimately involved in it.  For the Jews this intimate involvement took the form of covenant election—the Creator chose them as his special people.  Thus monotheism was never an attempt to establish the inner workings of God’s nature, it was simply a description that this God whom alone they worshiped was both other than his people and also intimately involved with them.  This is in stark contrast to the beliefs of surrounding peoples in many gods who couldn’t be bothered with the affairs of humans unless bribed or appeased through sacrificial gifts.
Because this God is thus simultaneously other than his people and present with them, Jews of Jesus’ day had developed several ways of speaking about the activity of this God in which they attempted to hold together these twin truths.  Thus we see in the Old Testament that:
·         And, God’s Wisdom (Sophia)—his handmaid in creation, the firstborn of his works, his chief of staff, his delight—gives his people the secret of being truly human, of reflecting God’s image.
I’ve written on each of these the last five weeks, and if you’ve wondered if I was going anywhere, well, we’re here.  These 1st century Jews who embraced Jesus as the Messiah, the promised Anointed One of God, recognized something in him that hadn’t been anticipated as they looked forward to the Messiah but, in hindsight, should have been: that in Messiah Jesus, God was present in the world in a way that was both unexpected and yet not without precedent.
That is why the New Testament writers, good Jewish monotheists all, reached back into their tradition and invoked each of these images in describing the work of God in Jesus Messiah.  Their assertion is that all these images find their ultimate fulfillment in the person and work of Jesus.  In him God was most truly and fully present—that is why he was given the name Immanuel, God-Is-With-Us.  And why they were able to hear and accept without much fuss Jesus’ statement that he and the Father were one.
Once again, Jesus wasn’t making a mathematical statement; he was making a relational statement about the kind of God who not only is one, but is the One.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Real Courage

I was reading the other day and came across something that referenced the bravery and courage of a lion.  That's a common conceit in our culture, but I got to thinking, "Why?"  I mean, the lion is king of the jungle (though it doesn't really live in the jungle, does it?), the top of the food chain, a predator with no natural predators.  It hides in the tall grass and picks off individuals from among the herds of zebra, antelope and other vegetarians that live on the Savannah grasslands and semi-arid plains of Africa.

And the male lions, the ones with the manes, the ones that are always pictured when invoking courage, for the most part aren't the ones doing the hunting.  The lionesses do the bulk of the hunting, and then the dominant male ambles in to eat his fill.

The big males do hunt larger prey like giraffe, which can hurt a lion who gets in the way of their front hooves, but when working together the lions are able to bring them down without incident.  

So, really, how much courage does it take to be a lion?  Seems to me it takes more courage to be a zebra eating grass on the Savannah, knowing that there's probably a pride of lions watching nearby.

I mention this because I deal all the time with people who have been diagnosed with dangerous diseases like cancer.  They are scared, which is natural, but they are often ashamed of their fear.  They feel like they should be strong, courageous, and brave, especially as Christians.  They feel that fear is somehow not appropriate for a person of faith.

How did we as a culture allow this to become a prevailing notion?

I watch these people live with cancer, AIDS, and other conditions, and though the fear never really goes away, neither does the faith.  In fact, it seems that the fear increases, enlarges, and deepens their faith.  And if the time comes when death is near, they face it squarely, still not without fear, but not without faith either.  

They face it with courage.

So you can take your great roaring lion.  I have other pictures that come to mind when thinking about courage and bravery.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sophia in Scripture

Wisdom is a concept in the Old Testament that is overlooked by Christians, and that is rather ridiculous because it was not only very influential in 1st century Judaism but in early Christianity as well, as reflected in some important passages about Jesus.
Wisdom in the Bible can refer to three things.  It can refer to a type or genre of literature which includes Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes, or to the collected teaching of the sages which provides instruction for wise living.  But it’s the third way that is most interesting for Christians.  In certain parts of Wisdom literature, wisdom is personified as a woman, variously called “The Woman of Wisdom,” “The Lady of Wisdom” or by the name “Sophia,” which is Greek for “wisdom.”  Theologians often use the latter term for the Old Testament personification because it is a name in English.  There aren’t too many girls named Hokmah, the Hebrew word for “wisdom.”
I wish our English translations would use the name.  It makes the personification so much, well, personal, and isn’t that the point?
Sophia cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.  At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: "How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?  Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.  (Proverbs 1:20-23)

But we don’t do that, we just capitalize “Wisdom,” and I think we lose something in the translation.  English words don’t have gender, but Hebrew and Greek do, and in both languages “wisdom” is a feminine form.  At least that’s reflected in modern translations in the use of feminine pronouns “she” and “her”, but “Wisdom” doesn’t capture the force. 
In the Bible, “Wisdom” is a chick. 
But the really interesting thing is that, in the book of Proverbs, Sophia takes on qualities and functions normally attributed to God.  Listen to these words of Wisdom/Sophia from Proverbs 8:22-31—
The LORD created me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of long ago.  Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.  When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.  Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth—when he had not yet made earth and fields, or the world's first bits of soil.  When he established the heavens, I was there, when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, then I was beside him, like a master worker; and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the human race. 
Wisdom/Sophia was the first of Creation, was present for the creation of all things; in fact, was co-creator—“I was beside him, like a master worker...”—present both with God and with Creation.  So what we have is Sophia, not only as a personification of Wisdom, but of God.
Undoubtedly Paul had this in mind when he opened his letter to the Colossians with this magnificent hymn:
He (Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers-- all things have been created through him and for him.  He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And this passage was probably also behind John’s opening to his gospel as well:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.
There may be in fact a higher correlation between the personification of wisdom in Proverbs and John’s personification of logos “Word, since wisdom is communicated in words (logos) in order to enlighten people.
The first Christians made use of a rich array of Old Testament metaphors to describe Jesus and his relationship to God: Son of God, Bread of God, Lamb of God—and this one, too long neglected by Christians of today: Jesus, Wisdom/Sophia of God.
Wrap your heads around that.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A Funny Story I Tell For No Particular Reason

There's a real funny story in Allen St. John's book, Clapton's Guitar: Watching Wayne Henderson Build the Perfect Instrument that I like to tell.  I first read this book in 2006 right after returning from the guitar-building workshop at Vermont Instruments, but it was a library copy.  Then last year for my birthday Quigley, in one of his less Quigleyish moments, gave me my own copy of the book.  That was nice, which is why I say it was one of his less Quigleyish moments.  And I ended up reading the book again.  It's a really good book and I think that anyone would enjoy reading it regardless of whether you are into guitar playing or building.

Anyway, Wayne Henderson is a retired postal carrier down in rural Rugby, Virginia who is also both a world-class guitar player--he's played Carnegie Hall, so that tells you something--as well as a world class guitar builder.  The book begins with Clapton playing a guitar made by Henderson and owned by a sound engineer at one of Clapton's recording sessions, and Clapton was amazed at both the tone and the playability of the guitar.  He had never heard of Henderson, but, long story short, ended up ordering a guitar.

Problem is, Henderson has a waiting list a ten years long (that he keeps in his head) and he wasn't inclined to move Clapton up the list.  When St. John, a NY journalist, caught wind of this, he convinced Henderson to build twin guitars--Clapton's and an identical one that would be auctioned off for Henderson's favorite charitiy, the Junior Appalachian Musician's program, which provides instruments for poor, rural students in the Allegheny County school system.

That's all just background.  So here's the funny story.  Seems that if you are on the waiting list, you have to remind Henderson periodically of that fact if you want him to get to your guitar sometime in your lifetime.  One guy, Joe Wilson, is a great friend of Wayne's and a benefactor as well.  Wilson was the Executive Director of the National Council for the Traditional Arts, and had hooked Wayne up for some tours and other gigs.  He had been reminding Wayne for over seven years about his guitar, but it wasn't happening, so he took a more direct route.  He mailed a postcard every day for three months.  They weren't all very nice.

Henderson kept every postcard, and indeed built him a guitar, one befitting a great friend like Wilson who could also be a pain in the rear: a 000 with beautiful Brazilian rosewood that had originally been the countertops on Truman Capote's yacht.

It's a tradition among luthiers before "closing the box"--gluing the top and back to the sides--to sign the underside of the guitar top down on the lower bout where no one will ever see unless the guitar is broken up or a laparoscope is used.

So Henderson signed, dated, and numbered the underside of the top.  Then, just to personalize it a bit more, wrote, "Joe Wilson Eats S**t and Likes It."

Isn't that a funny story?
I think it's a funny story.
A real funny story.
Real.  Funny.

So I thought I'd share that with everyone for your pleasure.

Oh, by the way, for those of you who are interested in the progress of the guitars I'm building, the other day I closed the box on Quigley's guitar.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

More of the Same...But No!

Last night I came in around 9:30 from working on guitars and decided to see what the Orioles were doing.  It's been a bad year to be an O's fan--they have the worst record in baseball and find innumerable ways to lose games.  It's frustrating to watch, and I haven't been, but going into last night's game against the White Sox, who lead their division, the Orioles had won five of six games under their new manager.  I didn't figure them to beat the Chicago three out of four, but when I turned the TV on they were ahead 2-1 in the bottom of the 7th.

It stayed that way going into the top of the 9th when the O's brought in the guy who has been their closer, Alfredo Simon.  Now, with Simon you get one of two things: he blows away three straight hitters for the save, or he walks a couple and gives up a home run.

The way the season has been going, and figured home run.  I just had a sinking feeling.

So what happened?

First pitch, fastball to Paul Konerko, who already had 27 dingers for the season.

Make that 28.  A long, no-doubt-about-it, first-pitch, game-tying homer.

Of course.

Simon finishes the inning, the O's go down in order in the bottom of the ninth, and it's extra innings.

Not for me.  I go upstairs to read for a while.

Before turning off the lights, I check online to see what happened.

The Orioles scored a run in the 10th inning to win.  A walk-off, lead-off home run by Brian Roberts.

There's not much more fun in baseball than a walk-off home run.  And there hasn't been much fun with the O's this season.  At least I got to watch video of it this morning:  Roberts' walk-off homer lifts Orioles | orioles.com: News

Things could start to get interesting the rest of the season.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


Long before anyone ever came up with a word like “omnipresence,” humans believed that the gods lived “up there,” in the heavens.  That’s right, before “Heaven” came to mean “the spiritual realm where the righteous go to live in bliss forever” it simply meant “the sky and everything else up there.”  It’s where the gods lived, because they sure didn’t live down here with the mortals.
This is what the Hebrews of the Old Testament believed, but this belief wasn’t restricted to ancient Israelites; it was the common belief of all the peoples of the Ancient Near East. 
It’s actually not just an ancient belief, but we’ll get to that.  The point is, everyone believed—no, everyone knew—that the gods lived somewhere else.  Occasionally they would visit the mortal realm, usually to mess with the lives of humans, but they were perfectly capable of doing that from the heavens, so they didn’t bother with making the trip. 
Usually, they didn’t bother with the humans at all, just kinda ignored them and went about their business.  When the humans needed some favors from the gods, like rain so that their crops could grow, they would offer sacrifices in the hopes that the aroma would catch the attention of some god, who would like the meal and would throw some rain their way. 
But it had better be a good meal if you wanted to catch the attention of a god.
But the suffering of mortals wasn’t enough; who cares if mortals suffer?  It happens all the time, you get used to it, and if you hear their groaning at all, you learn to tune it out.  And that’s what they did.
You can see all of this underlying these verses from Exodus 2: The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God.  God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.”
The Israelites cried out, and their cries went up to the heavens, and this one god, Elohim, not only heard, he took notice.  He didn’t tune it out, flip the channel, turn the page, or hang up the phone.  He took notice.  He cared.
And he did something about it.  And we know the rest of the story: Moses, the burning bush, the plagues, the Passover, the Red Sea, Mt. Sinai, the Promised Land.
Somewhat overlooked as little more than a curiosity is the fact that in the journey from Egypt to Canaan, Elohim dwelt with the Hebrews continuously.  He didn’t just come for regular visits, but he hung around all the time, first in the form of a pillar of cloud during the day which turned to fire at night.  But clouds and fire are too transitory, too ephemeral; clouds blow away, and fires burn out.  So to show them that he wasn’t going away, Elohim had the Israelites build him a movable home, a tabernacle, which was not much more than a tent—a substantial tent, but a tent nonetheless.  The point is that God—which is our translation of Elohim—wasn’t going away, wasn’t going to ditch them in the desert to go back to the comforts of the heavens.  He was with them for the long haul.
With our belief in the omnipresence of God, which we tend to impose on our Old Testament readings, we miss how radical this is.  God left his home and made his dwelling among mortals.
It wasn’t just a visitation; it was a permanent dwelling.  OK, back my statement that the ancient belief that the gods lived someplace else is not just ancient.  It’s actually very contemporary, for though we no longer think of the place where God lives as a physical location like the sky or the earth’s atmosphere, most Christians still hold to some sort of belief that God resides someplace other than here.  Sure, we have fancy words like “omnipresence” by which we understand that God is everywhere all the time and can’t be limited by time and space, but listen to our language.  We talk of dying and going to spend eternity with God in heaven, and we sure don’t see that as being here, where we are now.  Whatever or wherever it is, it’s someplace else.
But the biblical witness—not just that of the Old Testament, but of the New as well—is that we don’t have to go to God, either before or after death, for he has already come to us.  In the incarnation of Christ God came to us, and when Jesus ascended the Holy Spirit came to dwell with and in us in such a way that the Jerusalem temple is no longer needed—Paul says that we are the temple or dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.  And the Bible ends, not with humans going to dwell with God but with God making his dwelling place with humans.
God notices our suffering.  He hears our cries.  He comes to us and never leaves.
This is good news.