Sunday, August 31, 2014

Thoughts on Psalm 107


I. Verses 1-3 - THE INTRODUCTION

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,
whom he has redeemed from trouble
and gathered in from the lands,
from the east and from the west,
from the north and from the south.

Note that the author gives a framework for what he is about to write. He includes four directions, east, west, north, and south. It is clear that we are about to address an expanse... the latitude and longitude of human pain from which we need redemption. (In fact, the Psalm does address four different types of sorrow, and each of those four types will be addressed, one at a time, below.)

The redemption/gathering language of Psalm 107 evokes Genesis 1. I am reminded of a God who hovered over the chaos (the formlessness and void) to bring order, a God who is now hovering over broken human hearts and working to divide light from darkness.

II. Verses 4-5 – GROUP ONE: THE LOST, MISPLACED, WEARY

Some wandered in desert wastes,
finding no way to a city to dwell in;
hungry and thirsty,
their soul fainted within them.

What should we notice about this group? They are vagrants lacking direction and citizenship. They spend their days in desert wastes -- lonely, dry, depressing places. They do not have friends they trust, or neighbors, or the protection of the walls of a healthy community. They are lonely, disappointed, perhaps cynical and disillusioned.

Years of wandering have worn the vagrants down. They have attempted to find people groups where they fit, and every time they see a new village on the horizon, their hearts have lifted, “Maybe that is where I belong?” They have tried and tried, but nothing has worked. So many years and so many cities have passed behind them; so many faces have failed them.

At last these souls have come to the end of all human strength. Choosing optimism is no longer working. They finally see that there is nowhere they can find refuge ... nothing in all the hot sands of earth can satisfy such a need.

Still, this land stretches on and on, barren and friendless. They can only collapse upon it. What then?

Verses 6-9
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He led them by a straight way
till they reached a city to dwell in.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

As the wanderers fall to their knees, then roll on their backs to die, dust to dust, they look up into the heavens. They look past the cities of earth, past the faces of strangers and betrayers, past every lost hope, and they quicken to a flicker of the transcendent.

Their cry seems almost childlike, and their plea might seem superstitious or silly if you heard it without knowing enough. It is the last gasp made by those who have exhausted every mortal resource, and only those who have lived to the end of themselves can truly hear it.

“God are you there? Help me.”

He rushes in. He blows upon the sand, dividing it until a straight, even path emerges below. The path leads to a hidden city, a place of belonging, harmony, and purpose. It is the city of the company of the Divine.

In the entrance to the city, there are rooms with many beds, soft and deep with clean, white sheets.  The walls of the rooms are open, and a sweet, cool breeze swells and rolls through them in maternal sighs, like the wind by the sea.

Those who enter the gates of the city are washed and carried to a bed where they are tended by the King. He sits on their beds as they heal, holding bowls of broth to their mouths, placing cool rags on their foreheads. He holds his cheek to theirs to see if their fevers are diminishing.

For he satisfies the longing soul,
and the hungry soul he fills with good things.

They wake from dreams of the past and call out for him, and he listens to every lonely horror, then he speaks secret, beautiful words over them, words that extract the poisons.  Again and again, they cry for him and are healed and filled.

As they grow stronger, they come to realize that this is the city from which they will make every journey into the dry and terrible lands. The center of life has been found.

III. Verses 10-12 – GROUP TWO: THOSE BOUND BY REBELLION AND PRIDE

Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.

It has been said that there are two types of people in the world: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says at last, “Thy will be done.” The second group of people addressed in Psalm 107 is the latter.

The rebellious are introduced in medias res, we find them as prisoners caught in irons, bound in darkness and overshadowed by the threat of impending death. What might easily be overlooked, however, is the source of their bondage. Their imprisonment isn’t a punishment, it has been chosen.

It is an ancient misconception (going back to Eden, “Eve, do you want to be like God?”) that the human soul can experience freedom in autonomy.  The defiant shake their fists at the idea of Divinity, demand independence, then run headlong into prisons of their mortal limitations.

The rebellious would rather sit in a shrunken cell, no wider than two human arms stretched at length, than to run free along the whole universe, if access to wonders requires dependence upon God. They spend their hours and their years scrawling, “But at least I am free!” across the walls of their captivity.

But God is too merciful to let such ignorance continue without a chase. He first attempts to reach these stubborn souls through beauty, through intuition, through messages scrawled on holy papers and dropped into their lives. They will hear none of this.

He finally comes to the only means of speaking to a proud heart. Because they are determined to declare their own strength, he lets them find the end of it. He lets the full demands of a world won by effort fall upon them. They labor and strain, and they recognize that they haven’t power enough to manage life after all.

They fall down with none to help, because they have cast all help aside.

Verses 13-16
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron.

At first, it is humiliating. Who could have imagined in younger, stronger years that life would come to this? Even as they are compressed, they resist, demands crushing them like millstones. All breath rushes out of their lungs in a gasp, and as gravity comes to take life away, they cry out to their enemy.

“God, are you there? Help me.”

He flexes, roars like a father rushing to the aid of his son.

“Child, are you finally done with the prison of your own strength?” he asks?

With two mighty hands, he grabs the bronze doors of the cell of autonomy and rips them off their hinges. He throws them to earth, and they shatter like glass. He speaks to the bars of iron that run over the cell windows, and they divide as if they have been cut with a line of fire. He reaches his fingers inside that wide bond that chokes the neck, and he splits the seam, buries his face against the skin, and kisses it.

Then he lifts the man upon his shoulders, and carries him out into the open. He says to him, “Here is my name, I give it to you. You are no longer a slave. Everything you can see is yours to explore. Stretch yourself out into all I have made, and create and cultivate within it. I have made you in my image, and I have given you my resources. Run child, run -- and come to know what true freedom is at last.”

IV. Verses 17-18 – GROUP THREE: THOSE BOUND BY FOOLISHNESS

Some were fools through their sinful ways,
and because of their iniquities suffered affliction;
they loathed any kind of food,
and they drew near to the gates of death.

Epistemology is the study of how we know what we know. For centuries, philosophers have attempted to find a means of verifying truth and our perception of it, but this has been a long and difficult journey.

The ancient Greeks believed that rationalism was the answer to this dilemma, and they placed great trust in the invisible science of logic and mathematical proofs. They used the Socratic dialectic (a formal process of conversation) to test ideas, gathering great minds together to wear all flaws off truth, and trusting that iron against iron would sharpen humanity to perfection.

In his Discourse on the Method (1637), Rene Descartes suggested, “I think, therefore I am,” which implies (as J.A. Smith has noted) that humans are primarily rational beings. In other words, according to rationalism, our mental processes are our true essence, which makes our bodies, inclinations, and affections peripheral.

With the advent of modern science, a group of thinkers known as the Empiricists began to work through the limitations of rational thought. They recognized that there was no external means for verifying logical truth, and that thinkers from Socrates to Descartes had been working within a closed system.

So, they made a bold move. They suggested that dependable knowledge had to be reliant upon the input of our senses.  They decided to trust the limits of human perception to verify knowledge. This aligned with the  scientific method, which insisted that a valid experiment must be measurable and repeatable. By five tools: sight, sound, touch, taste, smell, we would have access to the truths of the universe.

Problems inherent in this method were realized quickly. We are not only creatures of sense, but also creatures who process input from our senses. Not a month goes by when we fail to either process well or our senses deceive us. Once again, a system has been created that cannot be verified externally.

Again and again, humanity has attempted to develop a means of establishing truth. It is sad to read through the history of philosophy and see the scramblings of man, so desperate to create a tower of wisdom that will reach the heavens. New ideas rise like sparks from a poked fire, flicker, and cool as they fall in ash to the earth.

We have been fools, refusing the food of truth that waits, free and ready for the taking. A great number of great thinkers have fallen into insanity and depression. A great number have died lonely and lost. And yet, humanity still sifts through the pockets of their corpses, stealing ideas off their stiff bodies, not worrying that the virus which killed them can infect us also.

Verses 19-21
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He sent out his word and healed them,
and delivered them from their destruction.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
And let them offer sacrifices of thanksgiving,
and tell of his deeds in songs of joy!

It is a sad fact that most people don’t have the courage to name what is killing them. It is too difficult, too painful to see ourselves objectively. We have dug in our ruts too deep.

Still, there are a few in every culture, a few in every time who are willing. They have noticed the patterns of death. They are ready, at last, to see whatever truth there is to see, no matter what it costs.

These are those who cry out to the Lord, “We are fools! We are proud fools who cannot find wisdom! God, are you there? Help us?”

He has been ready all along. He sends for them with his word, the Word Incarnate, a Person. Truth personified.

In him all things hold together, and so when He reveals Himself, they find He is not altogether unfamiliar. Aspects of Him have been caught in flickers and threads for as long as they can remember.  They have already collected up bits of Truth, though early on they claimed to dominate what they had discovered. Not until now do they realize how every truth winds back to a single core.

And as they run their fingers back over the past, they begin to see, for the first time, how it all connects. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. The universe comes clear at last, as it unfolds by him who was, and is, and is to come. When such a vision arrives after years of darkness, it manifests in gratitude and joy.

V. Verses 23-27 – GROUP FOUR: THOSE WHO ENCOUNTER MYSTERY

Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits' end.

We do not wake most mornings expecting an encounter with the Divine. I spend my years going about my work. I charge into the world, full of tasks, full of goals. I am firstborn, driven, with business to do on the quiet waters of earth. I can manage just fine most of the time, making excuses for (or hiding) what would prove damaging. And God is often silent enough that I expect silence from again today.

Yet in the midst of my doings, there are days when I stumble into mystery. Without warning, the transcendent intersects with the pragmatic, and I am shocked by the magnitude and force of dimensions that I can usually ignore.

I find that holiness always exists, whether I perceive it or not. Unseen powers are ever at work, and they lift and crash like waves of the sea. They rise in their peaks, up, up, beyond the earth. They touch the heavens, then fall down in a roar to the bottom of the ocean floor.

There are days when I do not see this at all. There are long stretches where I am aware of only what can be perceived by the crude, primitive tools of human perception and logic. There are years when I am permitted to make up my own rules and manage the consequences of my own failures.

But there are also rare days when I am going about my business, and suddenly I see the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. I see limits of my professionalism. My commerce is undone.

I haven’t courage for this.  It is too much to see myself for what I truly am. It will break a person to comprehend truth beyond what she has patched together to survive. It is horrifying to realize that my great ship was only a raft, and it is a vessel breaking to pieces on terrific waters.

"God, are you there? You are there! Help me!"

Verses 28-32
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

We will see this image again in several hundred years. It is a foreshadowing...

As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. 

And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.

'Where is your faith?' he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, 'Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.'

Who is this, indeed?
He is here, even sleeping in our vessel,
and we can cry out to him in our fear,
(we of little faith).
He is able to calm the storm.

Let us thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!



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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Boy Named "Ache"


"The Boy Named 'Ache'" (Complete Story)

Once there was a boy who lived in a house with a cruel but beautiful woman who noticed every wrong thing he did. She wore cat-eye glasses with sour green lenses, and the glass of each lens was bent so that it made the world look pinched and small; for she was an envious woman, and she could not bear anything too big or too beautiful.

When she looked at the boy, she saw him pinched and small, too. She would stare out of the corner of those cat eye glasses and say, “You, boy. I know who you are. You are that naughty and greedy boy who breaks nice things, and you are a thief, and a schemer, and a liar.”

A THIEF.
A SCHEMER.
A LIAR.

And it was true that the boy had told a lie before. He had also stolen once (a few small things), and he had broken nice things twice. But these names were not his name, they were only the things he had done. 

This boy was just like you and like me, he sometimes did things he hated, and he sometimes did things he loved.  But when he stepped out of doors to feel the cool wind blow, full of pine, and loam, and new life, he welcomed it. Beauty made him long to conform to whatever was true and lovely, and this Ache was his true name, though he did not know it yet.

Unlike the woman. She hated any beauty beyond her own, and so longing was a terrible threat to her. 

Every morning, she would rise, and she would pace through the streets of her village, charming all those she could charm, and cursing those who would not worship her.  And the longer she lived in this manner, the more she found she needed to fill her heart. 

In three years time, the worship of such a small village was no longer enough. She walked through the next town, and the next, though whatever she attempted to collect to medicate her fear ended up feeding her fear instead. It grew within her like a fire.

Her eyes grew wild and defiant. She cut the skirts off her dresses. She bought shoes with high heels and greasy red paint for her mouth. Her fear became a cancer which ate away a cavity inside her, larger and larger, until the space inside her grew larger than the body which carried it. One morning the boy looked in her face and saw only blackness, cold and bottomless. To see her full on was like falling into a pit.

And that is when the woman stopped walking. She shut the doors of her home, and she looked long and hard at the boy, and she began to name him by everything she feared that she was.

SWINDLER.
CHARLATAN.
MURDERER.
WEREWOLF.
VAMPIRE.

After dark each night, she would stay up late, not sleeping, making a list of accusations to alleviate her pain. Her pretty mouth was wet, and she dug her pencil into the table so that the wood carried the grooves of the names she assigned to him. Her hands trembled as she wrote, and from her lips came a green fog. 

When the boy breathed it in, it made him feel sick and dizzy. It made him forget things. It made him forget where he was and who.

- - -

As he came to, he was spread on the table. He could not move his arms or his legs. He could feel pressure and pain, but he could not move to resist it 

His shirt was gone, and the woman sang over his bare chest, licking the end of a long, green thread and threading it into the eye of a needle. The song she sang sounded ill and tired, and it came out almost like a child’s jump rope chant.

“Pretty boy, pretty boy, all the people love him,
Pretty boy, pretty boy, kiss, and bless, and rub him,
When he’s out on the street, they don’t even know me,
Pretty boy, pretty boy, they don’t see what I see.”

Over and over she sang it. And as she sang, she began to dig the point of the needle into the boy’s skin, stitching out the names of her own fears into his flesh. How that needle burned.

SWINDLER.
CHARLATAN.
MURDERER.
WEREWOLF.
VAMPIRE.

The boy’s eyes fluttered, and he tried to speak, but he could not remember any words to say. The green fog that came from the woman’s mouth had made a cloud about his head, and he began to see in this haze the shadow shapes of every ugly thing that he had ever done.  

He could see himself reaching for a stolen pear the market. He watched his hand wrap around it, he saw his lips open to touch it. Here the vision began and ended. Ten times. Twenty times. Over and over again he saw it happen. 

He saw the moment he had grown angry at an old dog in the market, watched as he threw that rock hard at its head to chase it off. He the rock hit the dog in the eye, and heard it yelp in pain, then fall to the ground. 

He saw the silver-haired woman from the meat shop who had once believed him to be the son of the king (they looked very similar, I am told). He watched the innocent error made, and then he saw himself surrender to the old woman’s daydream, taking on airs, admitting to what he was not. “Fool! Fool!” the green-hearted woman had hissed when she had heard what he had done.

The boy’s heart grew sick with pain and with shame. She would not stop singing.

“Pretty boy, pretty boy, all the people love him,
Pretty boy, pretty boy, kiss, and bless, and rub him,
When he’s out on the street, they don’t even know me,
Pretty boy, pretty boy, they don’t see what I see.”

She was right. All the terrible names she called him were those he had earned.  He was so bad as all this. After all, she had lived with him for as long as he could remember, and she was a beautiful woman herself. 

His head turned to the window. Outside there was a tree, and it flickered off pieces of sunlight in the cool wind, wind full of pine, and of loam, and of life. That wind wound its ribbon in through an opening in the sash, found the boy on the table, wound its coolness through his hair, wound round his head like a crown. It washed the green fog off into a stale corner of the room, and it hovered over the boy's mouth so that he had clean air to breathe in, down, down through his throat, deep into his lungs. He inhaled, and his eyes saw clearly again. 

There stood the Wind herself. She stood taller than the fearful woman, who was even yet hunched over the boy's chest, stitching away, singing her terrible song, unaware of another presence in the room.  

The boy winced in pain, and wondered what he was to do.

“What is your name?” said the Wind.

And the boy did not know, The only names he had ever heard given to him were those that the cruel, fearful woman had told him.

“I will not help you, if you do not know your name,” said the Wind. “That is your part.”

The boy felt the needle even yet going in and out of his chest. “How can I know?” said the boy, “How can I know my name when no one has told me?”

“I have told you,” said the Wind. “I have told you a thousand times. I have whispered it over you as you walked in the wood after a rain. I have breathed it into you as you walked under the night sky. As you walked on the edge of the sea, I have woven it into the pulse of the waves.”

The boy remembered those times, and he remembered how they had made him sad, and happy, and vivid, and wanting.

“I am the boy who aches,” he said. “I am the boy who aches for what is beautiful.”

“It is so,” said the Wind. And as she spoke, every name that the fearful woman had worked in the boy’s chest broke loose and wiggled out of his flesh.

Those threads became five serpents, and those serpents began to strike and devour one another. As each serpent was swallowed, the remaining serpent became smaller, until only a single last thread of a serpent was left. This beast crawled to the feet of the fearful woman, and he demanded, “Worship me!”  

“Never!” she shrieked. “You, worship me!” she screamed. And at once, the serpent opened his mouth and swallowed the fearful woman whole. Then there was nothing left.

The Wind lifted the boy to his feet, and she opened the door. “Come,” she said. “Come, boy who aches, and together we will see wonders.”

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Compliance


Some of those preachers tell us to conform to the will of God as if that were as simple as bending a wire. They crook their finger and fill their mouths with shame, and they tell us to be good as if we could be stiff as their white pressed shirts, as if we hadn't any passions at all.  

But when the Son of God agreed, "Not my will, but Thine," it was through bloody sweat, loneliness, pleading, and agony that he yielded. 

We forget that his was the vivacity which ignited all of life: those golden mounds of pollen, the white, soft underbellies of hidden fishes, the ache of the whippoorwill, the thin woman fingers of the wind, the nerves in your lips. The world he made is fertile and delicious. 

I am asking you to remember that he suffered like a poet.

He'd taken on this flesh we've got, and he knew how heavy it was. He got inside the divide. He longed for two things at once, and he knew he couldn't have both.

And so he fell on His face on this ground, and he prayed, "Let this cup pass from me, but if not..."

You read that and think it was easy. Then read it again.

He let himself be subject to this complex gravity that pulls you and me, that kept you up last night, that drags us in and binds us, that (if we are alive at all) we cannot resist without kneeling on the earth and wanting it, without coming to know that it takes a death to reach past the poem into the Poet Himself.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Echoes

It is constant as a pulse, so obvious that we only notice a missed beat. 

Physics, mathematics, biology, music do not compete. They run parallel, they complement one another. As knowledge is collected, we discover that it is largely symbiotic.

Any chaos we find runs in small grooves. The incongruous shocks us, because there is so much unity in the world. A maverick conclusion is a jolt, bold as a pun.

What is beautiful in Bach makes perfect mathematical sense. What is pleasing to the eye in a painting complies with the nature of biology and physics. We have come to expect resonance.

It is almost like there is a great energetic force that unifies the world. And though we notice derived principles (we could even call them "rules") which emerge from that force,"rule" is too small of a word to contain the essence of what is being measured.

Humans float along the surface of the disciplines, collecting rules like sonic echoes sent from a ship to the bottom of the sea, data points used to mark the general rise and fall of our universe. Though Bach is denoted by notes on a page, to sit before a recording of Pablo Casals and his cello, we find that those written notes are only a primal code that throws open a two-dimensional door to something thick, burning, and vivid. Life notices the code, but the code does not bridle life.

Most of the problems I see with man-made religion and man-made atheism come down to this. Extreme philosophies tend to be impatient, proud, myopic, and over-material. They begin with the rules and end with the rules. They flatten and compress.

And then bad listeners become bad dictators. They grab up a page full of marks, tiny points of sonic feedback, and claim to command mountains on the bottom of the sea.

Carl Sagan once wrote: “How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, “This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant?” Instead they say, “No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way. A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”

There is truth to this. Many of the religious have not listened to the universe. And yet, Carl Sagan has not listened very well to the prophets if this is all he has heard from them. For the prophets speak in a transposed tongue, like pilgrims describing cottonwood trees to men raised in caves.

In the beginning was the Word. In Him was life. The universe unfolds, then unfolds again, and we find that in some constant energetic force all things hold together. It is not a rule, it is an empirical discovery, hot and tactile as the breath of a lion.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Thoughts on Matthew 17: 14-20

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’, and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

- - -

Observations:

1. Epileptic. Strong's Number: g4583 Greek: seleniazo: lit., "to be moon struck" (from selene, "the moon"), is used in the Passive Voice with Active significance, RV, "epileptic," for AV, "lunatick," Mat 4:24; 17:15; the corresponding English word is "lunatic." Epilepsy was supposed to be influenced by the moon.


Epilepsy is associated with a demon. That’s uncomfortable to me. And then the demon is cast out. As a post-modern, I don’t know how to deal with the association of physical illness with demonic activity. Any connections I could draw here bother me. It's not that I am unwilling to accept mystery, it just seems like this passage could easily be mistreated, so I am hesitant to dominate it with a claim of any sort.

2. The father persisted in seeking Jesus, even when Christ’s followers had disappointed him. It’s beautiful that he didn’t let disillusionment with those who were supposed to represent Jesus discourage his pursuit of the real Christ. He kept going through them into Jesus.

3. The boy fell into the fire and the water. On a poetic level, this is powerful. Spiritual chaos often casts us into both extremes. The consuming and the choking. On a physical level, I'm sure it was terrible, too.

4. Christ’s rebuke of the disciples is so severe. Perverse? Faithless. He seems frustrated, impatient. And it was a public rebuke. That comes into play later.

5. Why didn’t the disciples bring the boy to Jesus when their methods failed? Was this part of their perversity, that they struck the rock twice like Moses, then gave up? Why didn’t big old Peter pick this poor boy up and carry him to Jesus and say, “What are we doing wrong?” Was he ashamed that his efforts had failed? At what point did the followers of Jesus decide to just walk away from need instead of running to Jesus and getting help? Had they become content with a little “success” and believed that they were responsible for the results?


6. The disciples came to Jesus privately to figure out what was broken. Were they too ashamed to ask in front of the father? If they were, what does that reveal about what they had believed about themselves?

7. “Why could WE not cast it out?”

8. I have no idea what to do with the mountain thing. That’s radical. It’s risky as anything. If humans had written the Bible, I don’t think they would have left this in the text.


9. My life: "I brought myself to your disciples, and they could not heal me." 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

A 8-Wing Personality Assessment (Regarding Orphan Care)


Sometimes people don't get involved with orphan care because they don't know where to begin. The global problem is overwhelming, and it feels like we can't make a real difference.

But we don't all have to do everything. We only need to do one thing that fits us, that fits our personality and gifting, that fits the stage of life we are in.

What I've written below isn't a hard-and-fast system; God often calls us to do the unexpected. There is also probably a lot of crossover between these categories.

However, as I have been involved with the orphan-care community, I've noticed some trends. This assessment is not intended to limit you, only to help you know what some first steps of action might be.

Maybe this will help you think through where you and your family might fit best?

PERSONALITY TYPE - (SUGGESTED ACTIVITY)

1. THE SPECIALIST - If you like investing a great many years in just a handful of people. If you enjoy long-term work and figuring out complex riddles. If you enjoy novels and in-depth movies. (Adopt)

2. THE MEDIC - If you are willing to arrive at the scene and begin to help with whatever needs doing. If you have strong heart willing to take risks to save lives. If you enjoy short stories. (Foster Parent)

3. THE ANALYTICAL DOER - If you think of difficulties in terms of solutions. If you have gifts of efficiency, of building things, of business/economics, of fine-tuning, of scientific problem solving. If you enjoy cracking impossibility. (On-site missions, solution-focused)

4. THE CRUSADER - If you know how to gather people for a cause. If you enjoy developing work teams, raising funds, finding creative ways to build momentum to bring about change. (Off-site missions)

5. THE NANNY - If you have a comforter's/healer's heart. If you enjoy tending, teaching, snuggling, reading to children. If you love making a space for the wounded to rest and grow strong. (On-site missions, child-focused)

6. THE WARRIOR - If you return to the constant work of prayer, day after day. If you believe silent communication with the Almighty turns the gears of earth. If you have prayed fervently for one person for years. If you come to the Lord quickly with small details and large, for short term needs, and have seen those needs provided for. (Off-site missions, prayer-focus)

7. THE AUNTIE/UNCLE - If you love enhancing a work in progress. If you enjoy putting the finishing touches on a project. If you like writing letters, sending packages, making a day brighter, being a safe place when someone needs to talk. (Child-sponsorship/Compassion International)

8. THE BENEFACTOR - If you love giving money away. If you like seeing how your investments go to people with passion and purpose and change lives. If you feel like you are making an eternal deposit when you exchange currency for lives redeemed. If you believe that your salary and savings are temporal means for doing metaphysical good. (The giver/sponsor)

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Peace


The most intense fragrance is released from the blossoms of our climbing rose right before the petals fall.

During the first pert days of the bud, even during the nubile unfolding of the flower, there is no smell at all.

Then, when the whole of the blossom softens like the face of an old woman who has seen terrible things and remained in love, when gravity pulls every layer of beauty downward, when the petals fold upon one another like elderly hands in prayer, this is the moment when the glorious, holy scent is unlocked.

The blossom has no resistance now. It welcomes me like hands on my face, and it lets me inhale as long as I need to be reminded of what comes in time.

It is surely no coincidence that the name of this rose is "Peace."