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Monthly Archives: March 2011

the longer I live the more I can see

an ancient old soul who dwells within me

a faithful old friend,

to the end

who waits patiently

for an RSVP

a répondez s’il vous plaît from me

a response to a call

simply to acknowledge that I am not alone

that we finally may meet once more

and walk

as we did

just like before

in the cool of the day

that most ancient of days

in ancient ways

before the beginning of times

as in the times of beginnings

the ancient of ways

who was

before it all began

and will be once more

waiting,

ever so patiently

to be so again

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There’s this coffee merchant in our city who imports select coffee beans from far and wide and roasts them in his corner shop downtown.  The business I find out, is a tight family concern going back a very, very long time.  The present owner took over from his father who took over from his father and they intend keeping it in the family as long as they can.  Their shop even proudly displays a sign above the entrance to the building reading, “ESTABLISHED A.D. 19**.

Now I am a passionate coffee enthusiast, almost perpetually in search of that better brew.  So one day I find myself in the corner shop keenly asking some advice on a new blend experience for me and my espresso machine.  Excitedly I explain to the roast master and owner what type of espresso machine I have, how many bars it pumps through, what grind I use, what my tamping pressure technique is, what my present preferred blend is, my personal taste, what I think I’m looking for now, and all those delightful, fine-tuned, essential details perhaps really important only to the specialised subculture of the slightly imbalanced, socially dysfunctional, common caffeine addict (coffearabica adicticus ad absurdum).

I am excited and somewhat in awe but just before deciding on the new blend to purchase I decide to humble myself and ask the roast master what he would personally recommend.  He gives me his advice and I eagerly continue the conversation by asking, “do you personally drink this blend at home?” to which his reply was, “no, I don’t drink coffee. I drink tea.”

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just back from prowling

and howling as well

the way of all creatures

with stories to tell

the call of the wild

the echo of days

and just like a child

the boys want to play

there’s a spark in the air

and a pump in the heart

an eager awaiting

for the music to start

the conductor taps lightly

but few ears are wide

but the song is an old one

and it stirs deep inside

the tune is enticing

I’ve heard it before

this isn’t the first time

it’s knocked at my door

while the sun is still setting

a bad moon is rising

and it isn’t surprising,

or so I’m surmising

as it hangs just above me

my hand reaches out

but it’s air my hand touches

in frustration I shout

yet the pull is alluring

it beckons me on

I look up for answers

but my eyes focus down

from somewhere far out there

I can see deep inside

and it’s me that i’m thinking

has no place to hide

the glow is bright clearly

it burns as it flies

and I look while I’m thinking

that it’s cold in these skies

and I see a reflection

it looks much like me

it glows though it’s icy

I battle to see

but the mirror stays frosty

I cannot see much

but in there there’s movement

it looks smooth to the touch

but it’s coarse as I touch it

it moves though it’s still

the reflection’s misleading

I suddenly feel ill

I thought it was me

who was able to see

but now all I hear

is the call to be free

a new chord is struck

it rings like a bell

the sweet call of heaven…

or the echo of hell?

There’s this proverb in the psalms that goes, ‘promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.  God is the judge: he puts down one, and sets up another.’

So I’ve been thinking, where in hell does our present, popular, pervasive system of marketing come from?

The unofficial chairperson of the local Chuck Norris (a.k.a. Chuck Almighty) movement told me glumly the other day that Chuck recently turned 71 years old.  She spoke almost forlornly of how he looked grey-ish and well, … pretty much like a 71 year old might look I suppose.  However the sadness in the words was tangible.

For me this is all in striking contrast to the excessive euphoria that seems to surround the Chuck Norris phenomenon … I’m sure you know the kind of thing I’m speaking of, …

monologues like, “Superman wears ‘Chuck Norris’ Pyjamas” …

“Chuck Norris will never have a heart attack – his heart isn’t nearly foolish enough to attack him.” …

“Chuck Norris is the reason why Wally (Waldo) is hiding” …

“When Chuck Norris crosses the street, the cars have to look both ways” …. etc. … and if you haven’t been bombarded by the multitude of Chuck Norris chirps yet don’t fret – simply regard yourself as one of the more fortunate ones.

This obsession with superhero’s – where does it come from?

Now I know that the Chuck Norris humour is almost completely innocent (at least I sincerely hope it is) and most probably in light-hearted jest, but I simply cannot shake the idea that maybe it just might be the subconscious collective heart of mankind dealing in a weird form of bizarre cathartic act voicing memes that on the surface seem to disguise something really deep, sinister and perhaps even dark.  I think we have to admit that we seem so often to make light-hearted jest when calamity shocks our senses?  Immediately I think of the death of Lady Diana Spencer (Lady Di) as a shocking example where no sooner had she passed away before jokes, many extremely insensitive, but nevertheless (at least to my mind) often hilarious in a very dark, even disrespectful way, were rampantly circling the globe.  Perhaps it’s just a way of dealing with our own loss, pain and confusion?  Perhaps not?

How do we let things get so easily out of proportion?  Could it be because in our desperation we have this inconsolable need for a human superman to represent us?  Someone who defies the natural order of things?  Someone or something above and beyond the limitations of our physical world.  A night in shining armour, gallantly hoofing his way toward us, ready to sweep us off our feet, up and out of the smelly quicksand and snatch us away to safety, peace and tranquility.  But perhaps more scary, are we determined to create this persona, real or fictitious, human or superhuman, man or God, in the image of our own limited perceptions?

Could it be that even Jesus has somehow become our own regular Chuck Norris?  I don’t know about anyone else, but for me contemporary theology sure seems to suggest this.

I hope one day God doesn’t turn 71 for some of us.

It could be fairly devastating.

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maybe there is a whole truth …..
I have always been impacted by how Jesus had the audacity to reduce all those reams of Mosaic legislation, the Talmudic addendum’s, historical writings, as well as all the scrolls of prophetic revelations penned over the various ages to a double-barreled uber-mono-theme, – “love God with everything and your neighbour as yourself”
I’m just too complicated … simply not simple enough ….

for me it just seems to get deeper as it simplifies
perhaps all the subclause and small-print we add is superfluous and even deceptively distractive of the truth?
perhaps it’s all a vain flag we desperately want to hoist for ourselves, of ourselves… a tribute to ourselves?

we the people!

…lest we get forgotten

lest we appear inconsequential?

do I hear “Babel”?

I think that our first footslip is when we interpret things from our own perspective  … – even though it’s all we have

– it’s not all God is,  and isn’t it fairly reasonable that God dwells in dimensions beyond all our combined linear angles?
maybe it just gets deeper as it simplifies

and maybe even simple is far too complicated

I personally think that modern science has dealt a harsh, low-blow to mythology and the ancient oral traditions of wisdom and understanding as well as to the inarticulate speech of the heart.  These days it seems to me clearly apparent that myths and ancient oral traditions have virtually been totally discredited, even disqualified and relegated to the irrelevant, irredeemably primitive, uneducated, unsubstantiated, fanciful, even useless ‘old wives tales’, fit only for ignorant children as placatory bed-time stories.

Our modern scientific culture now demands more detail, more qualification, more empirical evidence, more factual substantiation for meaning and truth.  For me this could be seen as a very unscientific process in and of itself.  My reason for saying this is that our scientific era is extremely youthful and a very, very late entry onto the stage of the history of the universe and even that of man.  In terms of man’s history it is only very recently that deductive reasoning has entered into the equation.  Perhaps for this ‘new-kid-on-the-block’ to be standing up and confidently declaring such brazen categorical absolutes is very arrogant and possibly much like a kindergarten child babbling on about their own wisdom in the presence of others more than 10 times their age and experience.  It’s not that the kindergarten child is less than human, disqualified or even in error, but the reality is that at around 6 years of age the average child still has a great number of years of practical testing and application to go through to let experience catch up and test the eternal wisdom thus far acquired.

There is an old saying that goes something like this, “before you criticise someone, walk a mile in their moccasins.”  I’d like us to attempt to walk a mile if we could in the moccasins of Jesus who was not a scientist according to our times or interpretation of scientific and who spoke not in detailed, scientific terms but almost exclusively in parables, ‘dark’ sayings, stories, mystically veiled teachings, even somewhat confusing metaphors and mysteries, and not only that, but in a local language that was very possibly much like that used by a loving  parent honouring the inexperienced, infantile logic and comprehension of the precious but young and naïve offspring and using analogies and subject matter and content easily accessible to the infant.

In his life and conduct he never closed down the teachings of the law or the prophets but instead opened them up.  He seemed to turn the restrictive funnel of the legislated religious code into an open sluice gate of freedom and opportunity.  This served to open and liberate the minds of his hearers to such an extent that they even began to threaten the political grip the religious leaders had in that day.  He never did this by bringing systematic religious definition or empirical detail but instead he unveiled a compassionate, gracious revelation of the ancient sacred traditions in word and deed that was of such magnitude that even the highly educated teachers themselves tried persistently to get him to clarify his meaning and intent over and over again.  He never responded to them to their satisfaction so they relentlessly tried to trap and corner him as to who exactly he was, what exactly he was doing, what exactly he was meaning, by what authority he spoke and why he spoke and lived the way he did.  Eventually they could only trump up fictitious charges against him and use these as the only desperate way they could aim any accusation his way.

Yet amazingly Jesus simply continued to tell stories.  He never took the bait by entering into the fray at their level.  He just continued to speak in parables and veiled sayings, presenting a tapestry for the sincere and humble to enjoy and the less than open to hate.  Yes, he did say many other things as well and some of these were specific and mostly quite revolutionary, but even these seemed to be so veiled to all who heard (including his closest disciples), that they too were like mysterious stories in and of themselves.  He spoke of the kingdom of heaven not being an external thing in accordance with any legislated, ritual, social, political, religious, ethical or even moral code, but rather something that was within each individual person, right there, within easy reach, but yet also so far away.  He also said that if they destroyed the holy temple he would raise it up in 3 days.  This really set them all flapping.  Once when questioned as to his authority he even said most disturbingly that he himself was alive before Abraham was born.  Today we would have mocked and certified him without a moments hesitation and would have felt content with this act of worship.  For this we killed him yet he never even began to respond by explaining what he meant even when his own life hung literally in the balance.  This amazes me and opens up even more questions.  … and so the stories continue to this day.

The way I see it is that empirical science, as much as it thrills and fascinates me, as much as it amazingly answers so many of my  questions, challenges my myopia and rattles my complacency, unwittingly seems to assume that the universe is all completely rational, finite, measurable, comprehensible, and ordered according to our own very linear, deductive way of thinking and in so doing to my mind,  sadly it closes down truth.  In its quest to fully understand and discover the truth, to define, contain, measure and systematise the laws of the universe, to bring order to our thinking, it to my mind seems only to limit, contain and perhaps even deploy at times great faith in order to close down the threatening wonder of the vastness that is all around us.  Science’s passionate quest to uncover the secrets of the universe and thereby comprehend all things fully by way of reasonable research is to my mind very possibly a reaction to the presence of the vast unanswered reaches of the universe we find ourselves in and something the religious order of society had long held the reigns in …  but in light of this all I do have to ask logically if anyone can really open up the truth by closing it down?  For me the only way I can imagine personally standing on the outstretched head of my own shadow at sunrise is to extinguish the sun itself.

And also for me, as frail and as whimsical as they might appear to us all to be, the ancient oral traditions, the parables, the fables, even mythology, theology, the sacred texts, the deep mysticisms, spirituality, the intuitive and the like, all seem in many ways mostly to assume by faith that there are more questions than answers, that there might well even be more than one possible answer or explanation to anything and that the universe is infinite and eternally vast – perhaps even forever beyond our ability to fully comprehend.  They seem to be able in some ways to embrace that the origins, like the ends of the universe are possibly equally beyond our full understanding but that the journey is well worth the taking.  ….  Except perhaps for the fanatically religious fundamentalists, I must add, who sadly to my mind have perhaps unwittingly managed to adopt more of a scientific paradigm to their spirituality than they are prepared to acknowledge, persistently seeking not the truth, but justification for their mostly unexplored beliefs.  They also seem to be preoccupied with trying to quantify, systematise, and codify the sacred texts not necessarily because they have faith, but probably mostly through insecurity and fear.  In my opinion the obsessive quoting of chapter, verse and intellectual reference is not really used because of godly wisdom or humble, righteous respect and accuracy, but primarily as a fear based reaction to the scientific era and strangely, strangely, what can be seen as actually an emulation of the scientific revolutions methodologies that seem to threatens their frail religious and political stability.  To these too I have to ask reasonably if anyone can really open up the truth by closing it down?

But maybe there is a way ahead for the humble and meek, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the poor in spirit, those who mourn and hunger and thirst for right standing in a universe that persists in spinning like wheels within wheels, even spinning in many directions all at once and filling us with virtually unquenchable wonder?

Maybe a myth is indeed as good as a mile?

The word wonderful in the dictionary is revealed as exciting a feeling of wonder; marvellous or strange.

For me the word conjures up mystery.

Something could be said to make us wonder if it appears in full or in part to defy definition or even description.  Something is wonderful if it leaves us perhaps speechless or somewhat overwhelmed, even mystified.  Wonderful means full of wonder, amazing.  For me it also possibly suggests that something could be confusing, vexing, disturbing, even possibly shocking.

“I wonder what that means?”

“It makes me wonder what’s going on?”

“I wonder what that could possibly be?”

And when we are stumped by God’s virtue it is often said, “the Lord works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform!”

Wonderful – such a choice, well used, even adored word.  It can be such a powerful adjective when used to intensify our statements and feelings.  Wonderful is so often appropriately used in honour of God and his ways.  It is commonly sung in the verses of songs of praise and abundantly recorded in the ancient hymns of worship and adoration.  Even our private and public prayers are very often filled with this word when we speak to or of our God.

Yet why is it that we seem to close down the mystery and wonder of God so soundly? In our theology and the definitions of God, his character, deeds, ways?  Why is it that we have so effectively developed tight, systematic theology and doctrine?  How did orthodoxy ascend to the cerebral heights it now occupies?  How is it that we define so precisely and articulately what we in worship declare as mysterious and full of wonder?  And how did spiritual methodology become so logical, so worldly, so empirical?

Could it be said that when the mystery and wonder of God seems to visit that we so easily tend to try pitch our tents and camp at mere signs (which are, as their name suggests, merely directives which point to something rather than being the destination itself) and punish wondering (perhaps because it reveals our nakedness)?

Could it be that we have somehow lost sight of the pursuit of truth being a wonderful journey and not a destination?

I wonder if this could be a sign for this generation?

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He went about doing good and healing all who were under heavy pressure from negative, evil circumstance.   As he went along amazing things seemed to happen around him.  It was clear that a force much more powerful than himself, the words he spoke, or the deeds he did was tangibly present with him.   Lives were marvelously changed as he made contact with all manner of people and as a consequence they sought him out and followed him virtually wherever he went.   They thronged around and asked him questions and he graciously spoke back to them in response.   He taught them what the sacred texts had hidden in them, presented a revolutionary, fresh angle on ancient truth and opened the eyes of the blind.   He demonstrated by way of his own lifestyle, a way of life that had never been seen before.   As a result lame legs were restored, withered arms were straightened and for the first time enabled to reach out and touch, caress and even heal.

Other than the twelve he officially called to be his personal disciples, to leave their homes and families and to walk with him he never asked anyone else to join him or follow him as he walked.   He never developed unrealistic expectations in the hearts and minds of those who met him and instead seemed rather to make it more difficult for them to follow him than that which first was apparent.   He was unpredictable in almost everything he did and when expected to ‘zig’, he ‘zagged.’   He extracted no payment for his service of kindness but often met the needs of the poor instead.   His only charge was for all to honour God and do as he did – to follow his example of giving up his own life for those of his friends.  In fact, he more often than not forbade the recipients of his kindness their passionate request to follow him and even had the emancipated fortitude of wisdom, personal conviction and divine sense of purpose to amongst many other seemingly controversial acts,  inadvertently cause a very wealthy man with all his worldly resources, to turn away from following him by lovingly revealing the great poverty of the mans extreme wealth and success.

He had no personal empire of material or political wealth.   He never drew attention to himself nor promoted his service.  If anything, he underplayed the accolades of the crowd and preferred to call himself the ‘son of man’, a lowly, unpretentious description for someone who performed such incredible feats of miraculous kindness.   He never owned any form of personal transportation nor any building with attractive, socially trendy décor to accommodate the masses who pressed in.   Instead, he chose the dusty footpaths, market places, the homes of often socially inappropriate people, taverns and once a week, the small, traditional religious gathering spots to make contact with people.  He had no permanent roof over his head other than the stars, no place to call his own nor to hang his hat or raise his banner.   He tended more often than not to profoundly offend the established religious order and the prevalent leadership of the day and they too pursued him relentlessly, but for other reasons than respect, admiration and gratitude.

Eventually Jesus was murdered for this, as are any who follow his example and do as he did.

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I heard a preacher speaking the other day about the cry of many people for a ‘need for God’ in their lives.  I also hear so many preachers proclaiming that this need for God exists submerged in the hearts of all.  But I also hear a whole lot of people crying for a need for many things – from flashy cars, to trendy attire, to superficial, feel-good commodities, a wife, a husband, a new job …

We live in a social system that is totally consumer driven.  This is the celebrated system of free market capitalism we live in.  Fads come and fads go but we are up to the task.  We have learned well to discard things when it is convenient for us.  We are not complete fools.  We know better than to be overly inconvenienced by things.  But we so love our independent choice.  We savour the spread set before us.  It is our right after all.  A clear indicator of our immense prosperity.  We have our needs met by millions amongst other millions of commodities all feverishly clambering for a market share.

“Pick me!! …. Pick me!!”

And then there’s God.

The way I see it is that the difference between needs and wants is clearly confused.  So much so in fact, that we have become easy picking for the unscrupulous who enslave us to our base desires in order that a taxation on our insecurity and our fundamental vanity be bountifully extracted.

So what do we mean when we speak of the need for God in our lives?  And what might we be selling when we attempt to persuade others that they need God?

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