Tuesday, May 29, 2007

mending or not

"If you see what needs to be repaired and how to repair it, then you have found a piece of the world that G-d has left for you to complete. But if you only see what is wrong and how ugly it is, then it is yourself that needs repair." By Tzvi Freeman

Sunday, May 27, 2007

the position of learning

"As we prepare to recreate Sinai during the upcoming holiday of Shavuot, we are struck by the fact that their preparation to receive the Torah was not through diligent study. It was through personal refinement.

Why would personal behavior be the ultimate way to prepare to receive the wisdom of Torah? Because ultimate wisdom is about discovering – and experiencing – ultimate truth, and ultimate truth is not about being smart; it’s about being refined – about a truth that encompasses your entire being and transforms your entire person.

Compartmentalized truth can hardly be called truth. Truth in the mind is not a complete truth. Truth is a full experience.

By humbly refining yourself you become a container that can experience Sinai. Indeed, the Torah was given on Mt. Sinai – the lowest of all the surrounding mountains – to teach us that humility is the key to wisdom." Rabbi Simon Jacobson

the position of learning is a difficult one. in order for me to truly learn something, i must take the position and attitude of understanding that i do not know what it is that i wish to learn. the position of learning is humility. humility can take on many shapes for me. it might be to walk around without my temporary tooth out, it might be not only yielding my position on a certain topic but even going so far as to give first response to the competing argument and then going even one step further which is to repeat that competing argument with respect.

"A fascinating Talmud captures the power of humility in the intellectual pursuit: Three years the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel disputed… Finally a heavenly voice was heard to the effect that both schools expressed the words of the living G-d, but Halacha (the final ruling) prevails according to the school of Hillel. Now if it be true that both schools expressed the words of the living G-d, why should the school of Hillel be thus favored? Because the members of the school of Hillel were modest and patient, and would always repeat the words of the school of Shammai. Moreover, they also always gave the school of Shammai precedence when citing their teachings… From this we learn, that everyone who makes himself humble is raised up by G-d, and one who is arrogant is humbled by G-d. He who pursues greatness, the greatness eludes him, and he who avoids greatness is sought by greatness (Eruvin 13b)."

humility will look like setting aside my "i am right you are wrong" so that i might hear my wife. most recently i ventured outside of my understanding to listen to the sincere words of my bride. i learned that i have a wound that centers around trust. it may manifest itself in my feeling that i think someone might one day steal her away from me, but it comes from a 12 year boy who experienced that is falsely anchored to "marriage is not absolute and can not be trusted" when my parents divorced during my teenage years.

what do i do now? i have learned that deep down i have built a way of living around an experience. one that is real, but yet is not true? how does one tear down and rebuild? why does this deep wound come forward as we rest at the bottom of the manoa valley?

may the One who is true Marriage lead me to the truth. my heart, mind, and soul is bent low, i admit i do not know, please shine your face upon me that i might live in darkness no more. i do not want to live in fear. i want to trust in You. amen.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

this is where we are staying

the question at the bottom of the mountain might have been "will you rest?" what did Adonai say to his people? will you go and can you rest? what is this word rest? is it the absence of work or no labor? what does it mean to rest?

cris said to me before we left for hawaii, dude you got to just go and relax. relax might mean that all i might need to do is have the guts to get on the board and paddle out in the water, the waves will take care of the rest. maddie says saturday we might go surfing. look out i might just get on a long board and paddle out.

did i mention it is absolutely beautiful here. this is where we are staying. you can just make out the mission house behind the garden. if there is a land of milk and honey, this might be it. what a chance of a life time!

Friday, May 18, 2007

more and more I am realizing that the jesus story is a life that is deeply rooted in jewish soil. For instance, for generations and generations the Hebrew people prepare themselves to remember the time when they were on the side of the mountain where Moses gave the instructions from YHWY to the people. This remembrance celebration is referred to as counting the omer. It is a count down to remember the first time they received the “breath of life” in the physical realm in the form of stones tablets. Moses came down from the mountain and captured what was believed as black fire written on white fire (google it if you are curious), the words of the One of Being.

Today we may misunderstand the 10 words as rules, but to the Hebrew people, they were and are like a wedding vow between husband and wife. Like remembering one’s wedding anniversary, the moment these words were given and received is well worth observing with great reverence.

The Hebrew people believed in the life source of these words with such devotion that they would literally write them down and place them in small boxes and tie them like bands to their wrists and forehead. They wanted to carry them with them everywhere they went. It was these words that would sustain and nourish them to be a people of hope to the entire world.

So it became a tradition to observe seven weeks of seven days to remember not only the words that were given but the process by which they were prepared to receive these words. Here is a sample of the blessing that is said each night as they remember:

May G-d be gracious to us and bless us; may He make His countenance shine upon us forever; that Your way be known on earth, Your salvation among all nations. The nations will extol You, O G-d; all the nations will extol You. The nations will rejoice and sing for joy, for You will judge the peoples justly and guide the nations on earth forever. The peoples will extol You, O G-d; all the peoples will extol You, for the earth will have yielded its produce and G-d; our G-d, will bless us. G-d will bless us; and all, from the farthest corners of the earth, shall fear Him.
We implore you, by the great power of Your right hand, release the captive. Accept the prayer of Your people; strengthen us, purify us, Awesome One. Mighty One, we beseech You, guard as the apple of the eye those who seek Your Oneness. Bless them, cleanse them; bestow upon them forever Your merciful righteousness. Powerful, Holy One, in Your abounding goodness, guide Your congregation. Only and Exalted One, turn to Your people who are mindful of Your holiness. Accept our supplication and hear our cry, You who knows secret thoughts. Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever.
Master of the universe, You have commanded us through Moses Your servant to count Sefirat Ha-Omer, in order to purify us from our evil and uncleanness. As You have written in Your Torah, “You shall count for yourselves from the day following the day of rest, from the day on which you bring the Omer as a wave-offering; shall be for seven full weeks. Until the day following the seventh week shall you count fifty days,” so that the souls of Your people Israel may be cleansed from their defilement. Therefore, may it be Your will, L-rd our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that in the merit of the Sefirat Ha-Omer which I counted today, the blemish that I have caused in the sefirah be rectified and I may be purified and sanctified with supernal holiness. May abundant bounty thereby be bestowed upon all the worlds. May it rectify our nefesh, ruach and neshamah from every baseness and defect, and may it purify and sanctify us with Your supernal holiness. Amen, selah.

For those who have connected with the Jesus way, a tradition of remembrance has also developed around the same period. It is known as Pentecost (check out wikipedia). The tradition says that

“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. “

Can you imagine trying to finds the words to describe this amazing event? Could the “tongues of fire” imagery connect the jewish listeners with the ancient tradition of the Great One speaking “black fire on white fire” that created and held all creation together and that was used to speak the 10 words to the Hebrew people at the bottom of the mountain so long ago?

So I guess my question is why would we want to remember both of these events now? What good would it do to bring these traditions forward? What might we learn about the One who is Life? Looking backwards to look forwards might prove to be very profitable. We might learn a great deal about who we were and who we are as the people of God, and possibly expand our thoughts about the Mysterious One who weaves throughout man and time.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Space - Where do you live? Where do you walk? Why does it seem there is all this empty space between us? Have I done something to offend you? I can’t seem to hear you, I can’t seem to find you? Have you left the atmosphere? Why is there a wrestling in my soul? Could you please reach through to my void? I know that you are there but I can’t seem to put my finger on you?

Communicate - I would love a quick text message or a brief email, or maybe we could just skype later tonight. I really would like to hear your voice again. It seems like I am blind folded trying to pin the tail on the donkey except the donkey keeps moving. I really really long to just breath in your brilliant light. Yet I am just caught in between somewhere I am supposed to be and somewhere I am and it is very grey here.

Noise - I try to listen but then I pick up everything like distortion. I hear lots of voices speaking but nobody is really saying anything.

Bricks – it seems like invisible blocks are all around me, blocking me in and keeping everyone else out. Did I put up these blocks? How did they get here?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

the darker side of me and spiderman 3

this image screams "look at me, who am i, really, behind all the masks?"

i went to see spidey 3 last night. the girls were having a night out so i went by myself. there is something about this movie i don't like. i don't like it because it speaks of something dark. the thing that i don't like about the dark is that i am too afraid to face my own darkness. i have hid behind masks before. truth be told, part of me wants to be famous. i would love for someone to give me the key to the city. with all my best intentions, i still can be tricked by greed and selfish ambition.

back to the image at hand, here are some questions to me and spidey:

who is the person behind the mask?
who is the true spidey, the person in the reflection, the person being reflected, or is it the person behind the mask in the reflection, or a combination of all three?
why is this image so powerful?
does it have anything to do with the fact that it is upside down?

at first glance the image seems to speak about external differences, but if one takes just a moment longer... the message shifts to internal conflicts. this morning i read a comment by elizabeth on candace's blog. that comment, so honest, so confessional in its tone, confronted me and prompted me to explore issues of darkness of my own. thank you elizabeth for your transparency, i hope your risk yields significant reward.

so go see the movie, see if you can't help but to be pulled into the story. i think i am going to take the girls to see it tonight. now that i am less concerned about about who wins, maybe i can experience the huge sweeping symbolic themes as the story unfolds. wouldn't it be great if i could do that in my own personal life narrative?

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

not the God we would have chosen

We would as soon you were stable and reliable.
We would as soon you were predictable
and always the same toward us.
We would like to take the hammer of doctrine
and the nails of piety
and nail your feet to the floor
and have you stay in one place.
And then we find you moving,
always surprising us
and tearing all things down
and making all things new.
You are not the God we would have chosen
had we done the choosing,
but we are your people
and you have chosen us in freedom.
We pray for the great gift of freedom
and that we may be free toward you
as you are in your world.
Give us that gift of freedom
that we may move in new places
in obedience and in gratitude.
Thank you for Jesus
who embodied your freedom for all of us.

this is a poem/prayer by walter brueggemann

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

how to look at a rose again for the first time

Perspectives – over the last two years I have been exploring and questioning the lens by which I view my faith. The lens of lessons taught, experiences learned, and stories remembered, as well as the movements from childhood to adolescence and finally adulthood. The interesting thing about perspective is that it is viewed from one’s current vantage point. In order to have a fuller perspective of something, one must try to view the object from at least 3 different viewpoints. Leonardo DaVinci used this 3-perspective approach to a subject matter with everything he created. In fact his journal, which was bought by Bill Gates for 30 million dollars in 1992, can only be read by holding it in front of a mirror. I thought this practice was very strange until I understood his methodology of 3 perspectives.

For a week or so I have been marinating on a certain passage in the scriptures. How might I look at Hebrews 10:25 with multiple perspectives? To avoid labels like conservative or liberal, I am just going to list them as I have been exposed to them in my life as a Jesus follower.

My first understanding of the passage comes from a Christian raised in a church environment all my life. So the “not forsaking the assembly” came with a connotation that was centered on the reality of “if the church doors are open, we are meant to be there.” In addition to this concept were the services themselves and the components that they comprised, like singing, sermons, and tithing. All of these things were meant to speak to living life, yet I spent so much time inside the church there was rarely any time to put them into practice. I remember many incredible manifestations of God in and around me as I reflect back on this vantage point of the assembly. During this period my first approach to this and any scripture was seen through the lens that this was meant literally and was written in order to speak to my current context of “the assembly” as church in a building behind the doors. I remember being taught as a child a visual illustration of this: Taking your hands, fingers first, and folding them in with the exception of your index finders and thumb pointing upward, one would say, “here’s the church, here’s the steeple, look inside and here’s all the people.”

The reverse side view comes from my life as a thirty-something. If the first view sees the assembly as the “church in a building behind the doors,” then the reflective side view sees the same “assembly” singing, speaking to issues of truth, and generosity expressed outside the brick and mortar. Also from this reverse vantage point the assembly is mainly seen as the people of faith in any given time or place. The songs and messages of truth and giving are no longer restricted to being expressed or received inside a building with the word “church” on the front of it, rather they can all be experienced by all people in situations that may or may not be labeled as Christian. Scripture from this vantage point is not limited to literal interpretation only, and must be first understood as it was said or written to the cultural context or the time and people it was written.

For example, the Gospels and the Epistles were written in the years 30-70 AD to a group of people who come from primarily Jewish orthodox or who were pagan gentiles having no orthodox at all. Further, it is quite possible to assume that the readers of the book of Revelations might identify the Beast as the Roman Empire, and the Dragon as Nero. Once again in the 1st century they may have taken the scriptures as literal just as I described in my first perspective, which gives credibility to the first view as a normal and natural response, but not the only valid viewpoint. In this second perspective, the passages in Revelations referring to the Beast might describe Germany, and the Dragon might be Hitler. In this sense it is history metaphorized. This is a short glimpse of my reverse side view of “the assembly,” meaning the people of faith who exist outside the brick and mortar of the church building and are not limited or restricted to searching for and of reclaiming the truth in all expressions. I think of the life story of Corrie Ten Boom, The Hiding Place, is a great example of “the assembly” viewed in this second perspective.

So what might the 3rd perspective look like then? What might it look like to take the first view and the reflective view and look at them together from an observer perspective? Jesus seemed to speak to this idea when he would say things like “you have heard it said…” I think the writer of Hebrews might be speaking to the understanding of what it means to approach God. If the writer was writing to a group of Hebrew Christians living in Jerusalem in the first century, the use of “episunagoge” in Hebrews 10:25 is unusual and profound! Normally, the author would have used the word "sunagoge," or regularly scheduled worship services, as in James 2:2 where "sunagoge" is translated "assembly". But the Hebrew Christians are urged to "EPIsunagoge". The "EPI" in front of "sunagoge" adds the meaning "super", or "over and above". So the text here is not telling the Hebrew Christians to go to regularly scheduled church meetings, but to encourage one another on daily basis, not relying simply on once a week temple visits.

Think of the dimensional aspects of an object, let's say a rose. Imagine a flat, one-dimensional rose, the kind of rose sticker my five year old might get in pre-school. Now compare that image with that of a two-dimensional rose which gives visibly to the front surface of the rose. Lastly, a three-dimensional image of that rose would reveal not only the shape and surface, but would give depth and fullness that cannot be viewed in the first two viewpoints alone.

This three dimensional view of the rose is the way that I would like to view the assembly. I want to see the depth, the richness of the colors, even the shadows of the petals where I lose the shape, and even for the sweet aroma of the rose itself. The difficulty is that I must acknowledge the first two as real and valid in order to move to the next perspective. Then I could view the rose connected to the stem as it sinks down into the earth. As a channel of life source, the stem connected to the root dives inward to find water and nourishment. From that point I would look to the top, the petals each reaching towards the sun to collect the energy from the heavens above. With this view, looking inside, outside, around, behind, under, on top, through the center, and in between the spaces, maybe I might be able to really begin to understand the Creator Maker’s beauty called “the assembly.” In this
3-point perspective it is no longer necessary for me to believe in the rose; meaning the existence of the rose is not dependant upon my belief in order for it to be a reality. The point here is simply to find myself captivated by the rose and all its beauty.