Posts

Showing posts from October, 2019

Soil or Seed?

Matthew 13:18-23 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

18 “So listen to what the parable of the sower means. 19 Whoever hears the message about the Kingdom, but doesn’t understand it, is like the seed sown along the path — the Evil One comes and seizes what was sown in his heart. 20 The seed sown on rocky ground is like a person who hears the message and accepts it with joy at once, 21 but has no root in himself. So he stays on for a while; but as soon as some trouble or persecution arises on account of the message, he immediately falls away. 22 Now the seed sown among thorns stands for someone who hears the message, but it is choked by the worries of the world and the deceitful glamor of wealth, so that it produces nothing. 23 However, what was sown on rich soil is the one who hears the message and understands it; such a person will surely bear fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirty times what was sown.”



Jesus doesn’t often explain a parable like this, and I usually feel as though a parable loses s…

Zen T'shuvah

Matthew 13:10-17

13 Here is why I speak to them in parables: they look without seeing and listen without hearing or understanding. 14 That is, in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Yesha‘yahu (Isaiah) which says,

You will keep on hearing but never understand,
and keep on seeing but never perceive,
15 because the heart of this people has become dull —
with their ears they barely hear,
and their eyes they have closed,
so as not to see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and do t’shuvah,
so that I could heal them.’


16 But you, how blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear! 17 Yes indeed! I tell you that many a prophet and many a tzaddik longed to see the things you are seeing but did not see them, and to hear the things you are hearing but did not hear them. (CJB)

It sort of makes sense why Jesus would say this about why he tells them stories. If he just said the plain fact; the simple truth; they’d miss it.

While reading this, I sudde…

Using Ears

Psalm 48

3(2) beautiful in its elevation, the joy of all the earth,
Mount Tziyon, in the far north, the city of the great king.


(Lovely-of undulation, elation-of all-of the earth mountain of Zion flanks-of north town-of king grand.) (literal from Hebrew)



“Lovely-rolling; all-earth-exhilarating— Mount Zion flanks on the north the grand king’s city.”
(My poetic rendition)



The Psalms are poetry. Most translations butcher the rhythm, the alliteration, the word juxtaposition, the imagery, and the metaphorical layering. Not that it’s easy to get all that, and to be fair, several authors have done their very best to capture the nuances. Robert Alter is a prolific author who writes about poetry in the Bible, particularly in the Psalms and Job, but he doesn’t write any poetry of his own. I use his translations of the Psalms as references, along with the CJB (which usually is close to Alter’s versions) when I’m trying to reach for the poetry. I start with the online Hebrew Interlinear, which gives …

Excuse Me

Matthew 12:43-50

43 “When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it travels through dry country seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says to itself, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house standing empty, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they come and live there — so that in the end, the person is worse off than he was before. This is how it will be for this wicked generation.”

Ancient belief held the common understanding that demons and evil spirits lived in the desert.

What about Desert Spirituality then? “Flee; Be Silent; Be Still (Pray Always)”

Why go into the desert on purpose in search of God?

Why flee?—and from what?

Why be silent?

Why be still?

“Amma Theodora said, “Let us strive to enter by the narrow gate. Just as the trees, if they have not stood before the winter’s storms cannot bear fruit, so it is with us; this present age is a storm and it is only throug…

Back to Lectio Divina

Back to Lectio Divina and the Daily Lectionary:

This is my practice, and I’ve missed it…. or it missed me— not sure which.



Ezra 3

…the old men who had seen the first house standing on its foundation, wept out loud when they saw this house; while others shouted out loud for joy — 13 so that the people couldn’t distinguish the noise of the joyful shouting from the noise of the people’s weeping.

Neither can I. My dog can’t tell whether I’m laughing or crying, either. It doesn’t matter though, because either way, she’ll come over and put her head in my lap. I know how that feels, the irresistible joy-grief that comes over people when they’ve lost something forever and then they see something new being put in its place. It’s as if the new thing, the untried thing, the thing that is coming, is inexorable and pitiless, but at the same time beautiful and good. I suddenly thought that this is exactly a metaphor for the coming of the Messiah. I think it must be alright to weep with grief and sho…

Trigger Warning

Trigger Warning— ME









I get triggered by your trigger warning

when you write

“TW…food”.

You might as well write

TW…breathing”.

Or

“TW… doing the dishes”.



My trauma ambushes me

whenever I’m reminded

how my enjoyment of snowflakes

falling from a winter sky

has been forever undermined.



Give me a safe space

free of the horror of your fragility.

Hold space for my indifference

to your delicate susceptibilities.



Or better yet, just go away.

Your special status has been revoked.

Echelons of Autism

My “level” has no number; not even a name—

Because it rises and falls; twists and turns;

and everything is contingent on the weather:

tidal surges; ocean currents; wind-shear;

thermoclines; geomagnetic meridians;

the confluence of rivers overflowing their banks.



It slides in underneath a cold front;

hitching a ride on the lake effect;

rushing uphill, madcap on a flying fog,

above gullies tumbled on their backs by the wind.



It dives down along the mirrored edge

of a temperature differential;

wearing the cold mask of a pycnocline,

below the white bellies of disinterested sharks.



It leans impassively against the tilted side

of some ancient cairn;

carrying the bag of a lost pilgrim,

beside a broken sign-post at some unfamiliar crossroads.

The Territory of Together

I'm digging into Dietrich Bonhoeffer's "Life Together" now. If I hadn't read Bonhoeffer before, I wouldn't have gotten past the first few pages; but when he says things like this: "Spiritual love, however, comes from Jesus Christ, it serves him alone; it knows that it has no immediate access to other persons.", and this: "Where Christ bids me to maintain fellowship for the sake of love, I will maintain it. Where his truth enjoins me to dissolve a fellowship for love's sake, there I will dissolve it, despite all the protests of my human love," I feel like I'm in a theological bouncy castle. Yippee!

I need to think more about this, but I believe I'm beginning to see a different picture of community.

I forgot that "community" is such a buzz-word. I realized that I don't have to limit myself to any of the popular and trendy meanings of the word.

I remembered that the "C" in LC stands for Community, and so…

Anamnesis

I finished reading the book “Holy Listening” and realized it had left behind a big old scruffy, flea-bitten dog of doubt sitting right in front of me demanding to be fed, or at least petted.

The book concludes with some thoughts about women as spiritual directors, and women’s changing roles in ministry in the context of the Episcopal Church. The author, Margaret Guenther, is an Episcopal Priest, and it was clear that she had very clear and unambiguous notions about the differences between men and women; both in the roles and rules that society imposes; and about the different ways that women vs. men approach relationships.

My ambiguity stems from a realization I had quite a long time ago, and it raised up its head again as I set down the book. This is the gist of it:

I cannot identify with either side of the gender polarization: neither male or female! I don’t recognize any aspect of myself in any of the masculine or feminine attributes, or talents, or habits that Guenther describes w…

Stinky Stuff

(I’m now engaged in the process of “reading for Holy Orders”; which is a prescribed course of study leading to ordination. I’ll be using my blog part of the time as a platform for my reflections on the reading I’m doing. The block I’m in right now is “Ecclesial Theology,” which is a fancy name for theological reflections written for (and by) the believing community for the purpose of expanding and enriching the mutual life of the church.)


I've started reading "Holy Listening" by Margaret Guenther, and I agree with much of what she says about how to listen, and what are the general characteristics of the relationship between what she calls "director" and "directee"; but I kept smelling a faint odor of something... something that smelled just a bit "off". There's a saying among Zen folks-- "The stink of Zen"-- which has something to do with a person having a set of ideas about Zen, and proceeding to discriminate based on those id…

Harp-Song 133

A song of ascents by David

Behold!

What Good!

and

What Pleasance!

A family tree

of siblings

a nation living together!



As the good oil

on the head descending—

on the beard—

the beard of Aaron.

Falling down on

the collar

of his coat.



As the night mists

of Hermon fall

on the mountains of Zion—

because it was there that

Yahweh taught the blessing—

life into eternity.





This is another rendition of a psalm derived from the Hebrew Interlinear source online.



A couple of interesting notes: The word shbth, which is translated as “family tree,” is related to the word for the Sabbath— Shabbat. It also can mean “clan” or “tribe”; as well as “branch” or “a walking stick made from a tree-branch”.
The oil in the poem is the oil of anointing used to bless and consecrate a person for the service of God.
Also, there is a nice poetic alignment between ascent and descent; climbing up and raining down—  both actions infused with the living blessing of God.

Threshold

Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this Table for strength only, and not for solace; for renewal only, and not for pardon.

(The original from Eucharistic Prayer C in the BCP is: “for solace only, and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.”)

It struck me hard a few weeks ago, that I had been doing exactly that— presuming to come to God’s Table for courage only, and not for comfort; for adjustment only and not for absolution; for endurance only, and not for enjoyment; for patience only, and not for peace; for wisdom only, and not for wittiness; for restraint only, and not for relief.

Odd isn’t it, this bassackwardness? Maybe it’s due to my Asperger’s, and is related to my problem with the Golden Rule, which I have had to amend so that it reads more like this:

“Do unto others according to your best guess as to what they would do unto you, if they were doing unto you what they would want you to do unto them.”



My life has taken on a different aspect recently, due to …

Virtue

All my life I’ve valued qualities like competence, poise, courage, and autonomy. The values that I developed had almost nothing to do with what anyone else thought or taught. Because I grew up undiagnosed on the autism spectrum, I had few friends, and a truncated relationship with those I did have. I played alone; I read alone; and I explored and learned alone. I don’t remember my elementary school teacher’s names, or the names of any of my classmates. The same goes for junior high school. I went to an alternative high school, and I do remember many of my teacher’s names, but only one fellow student’s name.

When I was young, I read, and read, and read; not just fiction and science fiction, but classic works on Stoicism, Taoism and Zen. I read The Golden Bough and Silent Spring. I read the encyclopedia, the dictionary, and the yellow pages. I am still an insatiable reader. Now that the internet is available, I poke around on there in the same way that I would browse the yellow pages …

Spirit or Breath, Ghost or Wind?

At lunch today I started reading “Voicing the Vision” by Linda L. Clader, and I had an interesting insight. My insight didn’t have much at all to do with her topic of homiletics, but I mention her book on principle since I like to give authors credit in all circumstances.

Anyway…. The sentence that kicked off my insight was this: “And the Spirit acts and moves and energizes on its own, in ways that…..”

I’ve lately been thinking a lot about the Holy Spirit, in particular the mis-translation of the Latin word “spiritus” as “spirit.” Both the Greek word “pneuma” and the Latin word “spiritus” mean “breath” or “wind” or “a moving force”. The Latin word for “ghost” is “larva” and the Greek word for it is “fantasma.” The original Hebrew word for God’s Holy Spirit is “ruach.” One of the Jewish Names-of-God is “Ruach HaKodesh” which literally means “wind (or “breath”) of the Holy One.

So, this unexpectedly popped into my head: In meditation we often focus on the breath.

Suddenly, I realized that t…

Dope-Slap Satori

This post is composed of a couple of excerpts from my correspondence with my spiritual friend and advisor. I post it here because of another insight I had, which I expressed (in yet another correspondence) like this:
"Much has happened in my life lately! I had a bit of a shake up and epiphany/satori that was kicked off by a fall that I took in my kitchen. (I wasn't hurt at all, and in retrospect I have been laughing because it was so much like the old Zen stories when someone gets enlightened by getting a nice hard whack!)"

Something is happening, and I think it might just be a really good thing.

So, I fell down in the kitchen the other day and landed right on my chest. I thought for a minute that I'd hurt myself, but no. I don't know if I told you about another fall last winter, when I fell out of the car because I was trying to stretch myself to step over a puddle and my foot slipped off the door jamb and I fell backwards into that same puddle. That fall was way…